A. .■ \
' -' ,■ ■ .^
,' ' ' : '.' . ■ ■ ■
■ ■ . 1 ' • « f
'-•.'''■,, ' --■■
L I B RAR.Y
U N IVER5ITY
or ILLI NOIS
A CRACK COUNTY,
A CRACK COUNTY.
MES. EDWAED KENNAED.
"Killed in the Open," "The Girl in the Brown Habit,
" A Real aooD Thing,"' etc., etc.
IN THREE VOLUMES.
F. V. WHITE & CO.,
31, SOUTHAMPTON STREET, STRAND, W.C
KBLLY AND CO., GATE STREET, LIKCOLK'S INN FIELDS,
I. — A Very Select Hunt .... 1
II. jS'eCK or ISTOTHING . . . . 15
III. — The Mutual Adorationites Sustain an
Irreparable Loss . . . .31
IV. — Lord Littelbrane Feels Lonely . 45
y. — A Stranger in the Land ... 67
VI. — Oppressed by so much Grandeur . 83
VIL— "[N'ot Half a Bad Sort of Gent" . 94
VIII. — Longing for a Ride .... 107
"\ IX. — "Welcoming the Stranger . . .129
"^ X. — Cutting Them all Down . . . 145
(X XI. — General Prosieboy Comes to the Front 161
XII. — A Charming Woman . . . . 180
^ XIII. — Love by Selection 194
^ XIV.— He Won't Face Water . . . 218
XV. — The Pleasures of Hunting . . . 235
pOfUb/cF^ JMEW J^OVEbS.
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A CRACK COUNTY
A VERY SELECT HUNT.
The real name of the Hunt was the Morbey
But in sporting circles it was always
called " The Mutual Adoration." In fact,
so generally was this latter appellation
employed that most people were apt to
forget it possessed any other.
As the " Mutual Adoration " they were
known far and wide, but altliough there
was not a finer country in Great Britain
than that which they had the good fortune
to hunt, the pack was not popular with
strangers. Year after year the same faces
VOL. I. 1
A CRACK COUNTY.
might be seen at covert side ; very few new
ones ever appeared amongst them.
Eich young men with large studs, plenty
of money and a desire to get rid of it, such
as are invariably welcome in most country
places ; ofllcers spending their long leave ;
fathers of families, hampered by the care
of so many young ones, but as keen about
hunting as ever, did not choose Morbey
Anstead as their head-quarters.
This was the more remarkable, because
the town itself offered many advantages.
It was clean, healthy, well situated on the
top of a breezy hill, and moreover abund-
antly stocked with good inns and excellent
stabling. But alas ! both inns and stables
And yet people who had been to Morbey
Anstead once, never complained -of it as a
bad place from which to enjoy the chase.
On the contrary, they praised it highly ;
but what they did complain of very loudly
A VERY SELECT HUNT. 3
and very bitterly, were the manners of tlie
" Mutual Adoration " Hunt. As strangers
tliey went amongst that fastidious crew
and as strangers they came away, feeling
that if they hunted from Morbey Anstead
all their days, such they would remain.
For after ridincj behind these exclusives
the whole season, you were but too apt to
find your existence overlooked just as much
at the end of it as at the beginning.
Now there is no denying the fact that
folks don't Uke this sort of thing ; and
various were the remarks made ; often not
altogether of a laudatory description. It
may be vanity, but it is also human nature
to desire some recognition from your fellow-
" Upon my soul, we might just as well
be so much dirt," quoth one incensed
" Dirt ! say pitch," answered his com-
panion. " For they do condescend to make
A CRACK COUxVrr.
tlie acquaintance of Mother Earth now and
" Ha, lia ! very good, ver}- good," said a
third. " The worst of it is, though, after a
bit a fellow be<]fins to wonder what the
deuce is the matter with him, when he iroes
out hunting and not a soul will say a word,
or recognize his presence. He fancies
that the fault must lie with himself,
and that ain't bv any means a pleasant
" True," put in a fourth. " But when
you liaye seen a little more of the M. A.'s,
then 3"ou turn round and enquire what the
deyil is the matter with them ? "
" They are so confounded exclusiye ! "
sighed the son of a s^rocer, who had taken
to liuntinix, thinkinnr he would <]:et eleyated
into County society.
" My dear fellow," said the first speaker,
contemptuously, " the whole thing lies in a
nut -shell, and I for one say that the Mutual
A VEKY SELECT I1U^'T. 5
Adorationites are more to be pitied than
blamed. They have only one idea in their
heads, and that's hunting. They can think
of nothing else, talk of nothing else. Their
brains get brutalized, and their manners
suffer in consequence. My own belief is
that this rudeness and reticence proceeds
from a very simple cause. They are not
wise enough to know any better ; " and so
on, and on ad mjinitum^ for the malcontents
were verv numerous.
This remark happened to get round to
the ears of those for whom it was not
intended. Such remarks always do. They
travel with marvellous rapidity, and
generally land in the precise quarter where
they are calculated to do the largest
amount of mischief.
The indignation of the Mutual Adora-
tionites was quite comical.
Not know any better indeed ! They
flattered themselves they knew a very great
6 A CEACK COUNTY.
deal better than to take up with every
Tom, Dick and Harr}^ who put on a red
coat and chose to appear outside a horse.
They liked to know who people were,
where they came from, how far their
ancestors could be traced, and in what
sort of society they moved, before jumping
down their throats, and even then there
was no hurry. It was always better to
take plenty of time to consider about these
thin<2^s, for fear of making' a mistake. It
would never answer for them — the Mutual
Adorationites — to incorporate a person
into their select bodv, and then fmd that
that person would not do ! There had
been such a case on record, and every
M. A. to a man was agreed it must never
happen again. And to do them justice,
this was their hrst and last error of
familiarity. Under the circumstances, it
will not perhaps be difficult to understand
how it came about that the Hunt was a
A VEEY SELECT HUNT. 7
small one. It was still further reduced by
being divided and split up into sections.
First came the "riff-raff" — the kind of
folks whom the M. A.'s saw year after
year, and ignored entirely. They might
be very good fellows in their way, but, to
use their own expressive language, " they
did not tumble to them."
Fortunately for these gentlemen — who
constituted the larger portion of the field —
they were able to form a society of their
own, which enabled them to survive the
frigidity of their fellow Nimrods.
Then came the " Half-and-halfers " —
people whom the Mutual Adorationites,
for various reasons, did not wholly con-
demn, even while they they could not
These were tolerated, passively and in a
luke-warm fashion, which proved more
ffallinc^ to some than direct avoidance.
On the recurrence of eacli huntinof
8 A CRACK COUNTY
season, and after an absence probably of
several months, they would find themselves
greeted by a careless nod and a muttered
" How do." Or if the M. A. happened to
be in an unusually amiable and loquacious
mood, he might even go the length of
saying, " Fine day. Looks like a scenting
But this was quite an oratorical effort,
and generally meant, " There ! I've done
the civil to you, because you are a covert
owner, but for goodness sake don't expect
me to go talking to you any more to-day."
As a matter of fact, no real M. A. would
ever unbend so far as to be seen carrying
on a conversation with a " Ilalf-and-
halfer." They kept their conversations
and their ideas for themselves. They were
too precious, or perhaps too scarce to be
showered upon the world of " outsiders."
An3'how, they were not scattered like
pearls before swine.
A VERY SELECT HUKT. 9
The hond-fide Mutual Adorationites did
not number more tlian a dozen.
When they went a-hunting they formed
a coterie apart.
They rode together, talked or rather
kept silence together, and jogged home
All the rest of the field were made to
feel themselves without the pale.
But the M. A.'s, for all tlieir exclusive-
ness, were not jovial. There was none of
that friendly, harmless, good-natured
chatter going on amongst them which is
one of the characteristic features of most
covert sides, and often is carried to too
great an excess.
Occasionally one of their number would
jerk out an observation, and his companion
would grunt out a reply. But there was
no mirth, or jollity ; no fun and geniality.
They were stately, and solemn, and dull
to a degree. As for a joke — but there I
10 A CEACK COUNTY.
tliey never condescended to anything half
so vulgar or so abominably plebeian. A
joke would have besn considered bad form.
The mere fact of ridinji about in each
other's company seemed to afford a kind of
sedate pleasure. Any interchange of
thought was quit^ superlluous.
Unfortunately, their very exclusiveness
rendered them few in numbers.
Death and absence had thinned their
ranks to such an extent that at the period
when our story commences, there were not
more than a dozen leg;itimate Mutual
Adorationites left. Still, thev sufficed to
maintain the character of the Hunt, and
effectually drove away any rash stranger,
who, tempted by the beauty of the country,
and the convenience of Morbey Anstead as
a sporting centre, took it into his head to
come out with the hounds.
First and foremost ranked the master,
A VERY SELECT HUNT. 11
He was a small, fair, colourless, insig-
nificant-looking man, about forty-five
years of age, with a drab complexion^
and hair to match. He wore an eye-
glass, which stood him in good stead,
since the number of persons he contrived
not to see at one of his meets was truly
remarkable. He also was distinguished
by a stony stare very disconcerting to its
object. His eyes always seemed to look
just a little above his neighbour's head,
making that individual feel there must be
something wrong or queer about his hat.
Another famous M. A. was old General
Prosieboy, or The Squasher, as he was
lovingly called by his intimates. He was
a most useful personage, and had derived
his sobriquet from the fact that he could
annihilate an objectionable stranger better
than any other single M. A. in existence.
His method was very simple. He dis-
charged a volley of oaths at the offender,
12 A CEACK COUNTY.
and as these were by no means choice,
generally forcible, and nearly always un-
provoked, nine times out of ten the
audacious enemy who had dared to address
an M. A. without waiting to be first
spoken to by him, retired in dismay, and
never repeated the hazardous experiment.
Once, and once only, it was said that
The Squasher met his match. The gentle-
man was fresh from California, and displayed
a fluency, a facility and an originality of
language, which fairly discomfited his
opponent, whose vocabulary was limited
Taking him all in all. Captain Straightem
might fairly be reckoned the flower of the
Mutual Adorationites. He was the best
dressed, the coolest, the most silent, and
least gregarious of the party. He had
never been known to laugh, and seldom
seen to smile. His brethen were loud in
his praise. Of the whole dozen good fellows
A VERY SELECT HUNT. 13
who formed their ranks, he (always except-
ing themselves) was voted the best. As a
specimen of the right sort, he shone pre-
He kept himself aloof, and never by any
chance fraternized with the vulgar herd.
As the owner of a large estate in the county,
he was a man of considerable position,
and looked up to accordingly, both by
those who had, and by those who had not,
the honour of his acquaintance.
And even his enemies respected him for
the brilliant way in which he rode to
hounds. They admitted that he had some
excuse for his extremely good opinion of
himself, but the other M. A.'s they declared
Still there was no doubt that the Mutual
Adorationites were on remarkably friendly
terms with No One. It must have been
the case, since nearly everybody else was
dubbed " a creature, a brute, or an out-
14 A CRACK COUNTY.
sider." Nobody ^Yas good enough for
them — at least, nobody under a baron.
Yet the singular part of the whole business
was this. If any one had told them that
their Hunt was not popular, and that they
were the sole cause of its unpopularity,
they would have received the statement
with a burst of incredulous indignation.
The truth was, they had not the faculty of
seeing things from any point of view but
their own. Hence the limitedness of their
NECK OR NOTHING.
It would have cleeii difficult to conceive of
a more melancholy day for the opening
meet of the season than was Tuesday, the
first of November, 188-.
When Captain Straightem's servant called
his master about half-past eight o'clock,
that gentleman turned in bed like a lazy
porpoise rolling on the top of the water,
yawned and murmured in a voice muffled
by blankets : " What sort of a day is it,
Dickinson ? "
''A tremendously thick fog, sir," came
the prompt reply, uttered in tones of un-
sympathetic cheerfulness. " You can't see
twenty j^ards a'ead of you."
]6 A CRACK COUNTY.
" The devil ! " exclaimed Captain
Straiglitem, wakening into sudden life,
and springing out of bed, so as to
ascertain for liimself the exact state of
But to his disGfust, on lookinir out of the
window, he perceived at a glance that for
once Dickinson had not exa^^^i^erated
A dense fog lay over all the land,
enshrouding both hills and valle3's in its
weird and ghostly embrace. It rested like
a soft, grey sheet upon the fields, toning
down to a sombre tint the bricfht cfreen
f];Tass. As for the laurel hedires c^rowinc:
on either side of the drive, tliev were
impregnated with moisture, and great wet
drops rested on their glossy leaves.
Everything was dark, everything was
dull, everything was damp.
He looked up at the sky, but could
detect no break or Meam of lioht.
NECK OR NOTHINa. 17
The prospects of the chase did not appear
promising. Captain Straighten! stifled an
oath as he applied the razor to his clean-
" Confounded bad luck ! Still it may
clear by-and-bye," he muttered, half-an-
hour later on, when he sat down to his
solitary breakfast in the big oak dining-
room. And at any rate it won't do not to
go to the meet."
But as the fog showed no signs of giving,
he drew an armchair to the fire, toasted his
toes, and read the newspaper, waiting and
hoping that the weather would improve.
It was late before he started, and even then,
instead of galloping to covert as was his
wont, he allowed his smart little hog-maned
hack to proceed at a comparatively leisurely
Consequently by the time he reached the
place of meeting, the majority of the field
had already assembled ; but although it
VOL. I. 2
18 A CRACK COUNTY.
was now long past the advertised hour,
Lord Littelbrane had not attempted to
raake a move.
As a matter of fact, it would not have
been easy to hunt, since objects at a distance
of onl}^ a few yards were almost undis-
tinguishable. To ride to hounds if they
ran fast — which tlie}^ so frequently do on
tliese mild damp days, when the heavy
state of the atmosphere seems to prevent
fscent from rising and dispersing — would
tax the powers of the keenest and most
darinoE" fox-hunter in existence.
"Deuced bore this d — d fo£T," growled
his lordship, as soon as Captain Straightem
joined the small and select circle which
invariably gathered round him at the meet,
as if to protect his noble person from any
possible onslaught of the vulgar herd.
"Deuced," echoed Captain Straightem,
laconically but sympathetically.
NECK OR NOTHING. 19
Ton my soul, I liardly know wliat to
do. Whether to take the hounds home or
not. All these ' Arries,' " lookino^ round
contemptuously, " will feel terribly ag-
grieved if we don't show them some sort
of sport on the first day of the season."
"Never mind them," put in General
Prosieboy. '• It's ourselves we've got to
think of. Ourselves first, our horses second,
our hounds third."
" What do you say to it, Straightem ? "
asked Lord Littelbrane. For, as before
explained, Captain Straightem was a fea-
ture of the Huntj and his opinion went
for a great deal.
" Well, if I were you, I should wait a
bit longer before giving up. Folks don't
like to be disappointed on these kind of
occasions, and it's just on the cards that
the weather may clear."
And sure enough it did, though at no
time in a satisfactory manner.
20 A CRACK COUNTY.
Eut at twelve o'clock the sun struf^^f^led
SO gallantly with the fog, that for a few
minutes he actually forced it to disperse
before his pale radiance.
Loud were the conc^ratulations, and
universal the satisfaction, when Lord
Littelbrane, without losing a moment,
gave orders for the proceedings of the day
to commence, and hounds were at once
trotted off at a brisk pace, to draw a
covert close by.
Half-an-hour elapsed, and sadness and
despondency once more fell upon the spirits
of the field ; for the improvement in the
weather proved only temporary, and the
heavy mist seemed to roll down worse than
ever. Phoebus turned white and sicklv
like an ailinsf child, then sullenlv hid his
" If this o'oes on we shall have to 2:ive
it up, whether we like it or not," said Lord
NECK OR NOTHING-. 21
The words were scarcely out of his
mouth before a loud '' gane forrard
aw-a-ay " proclaimed that Eeynard had
left the snug undergrowth of the covert.
There was evidently a hot scent in the
open, for the hounds dashed out after
him, close at his brush, and almost directly
were lost to vision, engulphed, as it were,
by the enveloping fog.
They threw their tongues merrily, and
could be heard, though not seen.
And now began a curious chase ; for
every man had to ride by ear instead of
by eye, and he who was deaf stood but a
Foxes are famed for their subtilty ; and
this one, as if on purpose to baffle his
pursuers, chose about as rough and awk-
ward a route as he could have selected in
the whole country.
Fences loomed dark and formidable,
their dimensions increased instead of
22 A CEACK COUNTY.
diminished by the imperfect light. It was
simply impossible to tell what they were
like, until you were close upon them.
Horses snilTed the damp air through
their open nostrils, and discharged it
with disgust. They looked round sus-
piciously at this grey and unrecognisable
world, were nervous and timid, and dis-
trusted the commonest object. A log of
wood, a cow, a stone, filled them with
apprehension. And all this time, borne on
the vaporous atmosphere, rang out the
eager, murderous notes of hounds cele-
brated for their slaying qualities.
They were positively racing ahead.
But alack ! alack ! How to keep up
with them ? The task seemed well nio-h
impossible, and each man realized to his
bitter cost that there are some days in
every season when hunting is attended
with more pain than pleasure. Days when
hounds, fences, elements defy you simul-
KECK OR NOTHING. 23
taneously. Five minutes sufficed to place
the field in disorder. Their ranks opened
and spread in every direction • and dire
was the confusion that resulted.
Only Burnett (the huntsman), Captain
Straightem, and a couple of hard -riding
farmers succeeded in getting well away.
Their nerve and promptitude served them
in good stead ; but they had to ride as
they had never ridden in their lives before.
It was a case of neck or nothing.
Friendly gates could not be taken
advantage of, as usual ; for to-day the
Pack would have vanished from view in
the time that they took to open. The
only chance of keeping with hounds
was to keep close to their heels and nego-
tiate every possible and impossible fence
that came in the way. Providence must
provide for the rest.
Crash, crash go the timbers of a
stilT double oxer, as the gallant quartette
24 A CRACK COUNTY.
fly it, each man charging a diflerent
One of the farmers is down — no, his
horse recovers himself. He staGfi^ers for a
pace or two, then gallops on as before,
fearful of losing his companions.
Suddenly is heard a shrill whistle.
It is the first intimation given to the
pursuers that they are close to a railway.
" By God ! " exclaims Burnett, in agi-
tated tones ; " the hounds will be cut to
pieces." For he knows b}^ the sound that
they are just ahead.
He calls them by name ; first in com-
manding, then in entreating, fnially in
frantic lan^uac^e. Never has his horn
iriven forth such loud and urcfent blasts.
But their blood is up, and they heed him
In another second an express train
dashes into their midst, and two of the
best bitches in the whole Pack will never
' NECK OR ISOTHING. 25
go a-hunting again, or stretch their fleet
limbs over the broad pastures. Burnett is
He wrings his hands like a woman, and
as he dismounts hastily and^bends over the
mans^led carcases of his dead darlinf^s —
those hounds that were his pride and his
delight — the tears gather in his eyes, whilst
his honest, weather-beaten face twitches
" Darn this fog," he exclaims resentfully.
" It ain't fit to hunt in."
But the companions of poor Milkmaid
and Merrylass evidently hold a different
opinion. With deadly zest and joj^ous
music they fling forward after their fox,
every murderous instinct awakened and
A solitary horseman is with them now,
and follows their bold career. Burnett has
stayed with his hounds, the fog has
swallowed up the two farmers, who, until
26 A CRACK COUNTY.
tliis point, Lave maintained their own right
On the face of him who smiles so
rarely a solemn smile has settled. To
have bested the field is the one delic^ht
of his life. He can conceive of no hiizher
Swish ! And he tears through a great,
black ballfinch, and is almost drasf^^ed from
his saddle. Slap! And the bough of an
overhanging tree catches him one on the
His countenance bri^iitens still more,
though the blood is spurting from his lip.
His pulses quicken and his eye dilates, for
the dano-ers and the difficulties of this
particular chase lend it a special charm.
When he thinks it all over in his armchair
after a good dinner, he will feel excusably
triumphant and elated in proportion to the
But what is this black thin^r loomins:
NECK OR NOTHINa. 27
through the fog? Oh, for a ray of
It might be a fence, it might be a
house, it might be anything, for all he
The pulsations of his heart grow loud.
He can hear them beatino- ao-ainst his ribs.
But the hounds have already disappeared
behind the mysterious barrier, and where
they go he is determined to follow.
Whatever this man's faults may be, he is
brave and knows no fear.
Besides, he has beneath him one of the
most perfect and resolute hunters that ever
looked through a bridle. A hunter who
has carried him four seasons, and hardly
put a foot wrong.
Captain Straightem leans forward in the
saddle, pats his good horse's neck and
speaks an encouraging word to him.
Then he steadies him a trifle, and just
when he is about to take off gives him his
28 A CRACK COU^TY.
head. The animal knows his business, and
is as courageous as a lion.
He springs from his hind legs, and
oh ! ! !
Ten minutes afterwards, when Burnett,
Lord Littelbrane, and some half-dozen
others, riding in search of the hounds,
came to the fence in question they pru-
dently avoided it ; and went through a
bridle-gate which they had the good for-
tune to espy, congratulating themselves on
not being forced to jump such a regular
And yet the nerves of most of them were
inclined to be more shaken than if thev
had made the attempt. For an unexpected
sight met their vision.
Hard by, lying tliere on the ground all
by himself, some ten or twelve yards
distant from the fence, was Captain
His horse had galloped away, and could
NECK OR NOTHINa. 29
nowhere be seen, though a track of red
blood seemed to tell that he must have
been badly hurt in his fall.
For the thin dark line of treacherous
metal, which has been responsible for so
many accidents in the hunting-field, was
bent and twisted, and in parts tufts of fine
chestnut-coloured hair adhered to the rusty
Captain Straightem lay there quite still.
He never moved or spoke when his
companions crowded around him.
His face was turned upwards to the
sodden sky, one hand was clenched, and
held between its stifiened fingers a bunch
of grass torn from its roots, and in his wide
open eyes there rested a dull and vacant
look, which somehow struck terror in the
hearts of the bystanders.
It filled them with a nameless dread, a
horrible suspicion, which, staring blankly
into each other's sobered faces, they had,
30 A CiiACK COVSTY.
in tlie first startlingness of the shock, not
courage to mention.
And the soft foi^ curled itself around the
dark twic^s of the hedi^e, and as a memento
of its passage left hanging from each
pointed thorn a trembling drop. Even in
that short space of time it had silvered the
fallen man's hair and covered with a
white, humid covering his red coat, his
snowy breeches, his top-boots, and all the
brave insignia of the chase, with which
only that morning he had sallied forth, full
of life and spirits.
• — ♦-
THE MUTUAL ADORATIOXITES SUSTAIN AN
Lord Littelbrane was the first to speak.
" I fear this is a bad business," he said
huskily. " Does anyone know if there is
a doctor out hunting to-day ? "
" Yes, I do, my lord," answered Burnett,
touching his cap. " I saw Mr. Smith of
Cottlebury at the meet, riding that there
rat-tailed grey cob of his."
" Go and fetch him then this minute."
" Yes, my lord."
"And hark you, Burnett, don't spare
your horse. For once in 3^our life don't
mind if you bring him back lame or not ;
32 A CRACK COUNTY.
only for God's sake find tliis Mr. Smith ;
and get him to come here immediately."
It was not often that his lordship spoke at
such leifgth or with so much energy and
decision. Burnett at once realized the
gravity of the situation, and galloped off
at full speed in the direction from which he
had recently arrived.
When he had gone, Lord Littelbrane
knelt down on the damp grass by the side
of his prostrate friend, and putting out his
hand, placed it under Captain Straightem's
red coat, and over his heart. '• I can't
feel it beat," he said tremulouslv, lookinix
up with troubled eyes, at those who stood
near. "It is horribly still, and there's a
look about his face which I don't half like.
Straighten!, old boy," giving him a slight
shake, " pull yourself together."
But no answer was forthcominfr. Still
the same unnatural quietude prevailed.
And now the truth, in all its solemnity
AN IRREPARABLE LOSS. 33
aad horror, began to force itself upon Lord
Littelbrane's compreliension. Fiercely and
feverishly he endeavoured to thrust it from
him, but the thought grew and grew, and
turned his blood to ice. He had seen too
many bad accidents in the hunting field
not to know what this portended. Only last
year a young rough rider of his own had
been killed whilst followinor the hounds.
There was the same expression on the
lad's face as on Captain Straightem's. He
recalled it with a shudder. His nerves had
been shaken then, but now he felt as if
they would give way altogether. He
seemed stunned and dazed by the magni-
tude of the disaster.
For this man, lying here so pale and
still, was his friend. He had not so many
that he could afford to lose his best one
— the only one really after his heart.
Captain Straightem was endeared to him
through many ties of association, such as
VOL. I. 3
34 A CRACK COUNTY.
when youths grow up, bind them closely
together. They had been born in the
same county, and in the same year. As
boys they had gone to the same school
and displayed an equal amount of stu-
pidity. As men, horses and hounds proved
an unfailini]^ bond of union between them.
They knew each other's peculiarities, and
their ideas of the position and importance
of a Mutual Adorationite were identical.
And besides all this, Lord Littelbrane
was not only proud of Captain Straightem,
but he entertained a species of veneration
cr him. There was not another man in
all the Hunt who could ride like the
gallant captain. If any serious misfortune
had now happened to him, who could he —
Lord Littelbrane — depend upon in future
to uphold the honour of their sacred body,
and show these rouiih-and-tumble fellows
the real scientific way to cross a country?
And if — if thino-s were as he feared, who
AN IRREPARABLE LOSS. ' 35
would jog home with him at his own
pecuhar pace, after a hard day's hunting,
not taxing his conversational powers by an
irritating flow of small talk, but only at
lono' intervals oivincr vent to some choice
and almost monosyllabic remark. Then,
too, who would support him through
thick and thin, in the various difficulties
raised by covert-owners, farmers, poultry-
losers, subscribers, &c.
A lump came into Lord Littelbrane's
throat, which threatened to impede his
respiration. He turned his head hastily
away, so that none present should perceive
the moisture which suddenly dimmed his
Meanwhile a couple of sheep hurdles
had been torn up from a turnip field close
by, and on these they laid Captain
Straightem's body, after first raising it
reverently from the ground.
Then the mournful little procession
36 A CEACK COUNTY.
marched slowly and sadly through the
wet fields, until at length a road was
reached. Near this road stood a tidy
cottage, and in its parlour they deposited
their burden on the sofa.
Lord Littelbrane would not leave his
friend, even for a moment. He kept his
eyes rivetted on Captain Straightem's face,
in the hope of seeing some sign of life
return to it. But one of the party kept
watch outside the door, and paced rest-
lessly up and down the road, waiting and
lomrinsf for Doctor Smith's arrival. *•
So the minutes passed anxiously away.
They seemed interminable, and the gloom
of the atmosphere coincided with the gloom
of their spirits.
For although they tried by every re-
storative they could think of, to bring
colour to the fallen man's cheek, warmth
to his flesh, and light to his eye, all their
attempts proved vain.
AN IRREPARABLE LOSS. 37
At last the sound of hoofs was heard,
and in another second, Burnett emerged
like a giant from the fog, followed by
Doctor Smith on his grey cob. Both
horses were panting, and gave evidence
of the speed at which they had travelled.
The doctor dismounted, and after a few
words of explanation from Lord Littelbrane,
who came out to greet him, flung the reins
to Burnett, and disappeared within the
cottage. Arrived there, one look was
enough to convince him that here were
no bones to set, no cuts to strap, or
wounds to dress.
Captain Straightem was past the aid of
man. Not all the skill and science in
the world could avail him now. He had
gone where such things were unable to
Doctor Smith shook his head, and his
countenance assumed an unusually grave
38 A CRACK COU>'TY.
" Well ! " asked Lord Littelbrane in an
awestruck voice, for he knew what was
"Is there — is there any chance of his
getting over it ? "
" Not in this world," said the doctor
seriously. " Captain Straight em is dead,
and has been so for some time."
" Dead ! " exclaimed the other with
sharp anguish. " Oh ! no, not dead, surely
not dead. I will telegraph to London for
the best advice. Somebody must pull him
" Neither I, nor anvbodv else, can do
him any good, poor fellow ! I only
wish that we could."
At this terrible confirmation of his worst
fears, Lord Littelbrane sank down on his
knees by Captain Straightem's side, and
buried his face in his hands.
Absolute silence prevailed throughout
the room. None felt inclined to break it.
AN IREEPARAELE LOSS. 39
Only every now and again could be heard
a suppressed sob, wliich escaped from his
lordship almost involuntarily.
In spite of his vapidity, his reserve, and
curious conceit he had a heart. During
many years he had striven to conceal its
existence, but now it burst through that
veneer of impenetrabilit}^, on which, as a
Mutual Adorationite, he had long prided
Something seemed to give way within
him, and he bowed his head and wept like
The effort to maintain a dignified stoicism
was beyond his strength.
And those who had never liked him —
who had called him a fool, a prig, an
aristocrat — thought better of him at this
moment than they had ever done. The
resentment of years vanished. The shghts
and insults of seasons were forgotten. For
the first time almost in their lives, thev
40 A CRACK COUNTY.
felt that he was human : a creature like
themselves, who loved, and mourned, and
suffered. " lie ain't such a bad chap after
all I '* thev murmured to one another.
" It's his way and very likely he don't
mean anything by it. We have been foolish
enough to take offence where probably
none was intended."
Meantime Dr. Smith was making a
minute examination in order to ascertain
the exact cause of death. As a hunting
man himself, he felt an unusual interest in
the case. He soon discovered what had
"Poor chap," he said, in his rough but
sympathetic way. (At any other time Lord
Littelbrane would have winced at hearing
his best friend called a " poor chap," but
he was too thoroughly upset and startled
out of his usual groove to take any notice
now.) ''He has broken his neck. It is
quite clear to my mind, that when he fell
AN IREEPARABLE LOSS. 41
he landed on the point of his chin, which
caused the entire head to be violently-
jerked backwards, from which dislocation
of the cervical vertebrae ensued." Then
he looked commiseratingly at Lord Littel-
brane, and added :
" Don't take on so, my lord. This is a
dreadful business, but it should at least be
some consolation to you to know that death
was instantaneous, and that your friend
was spared all pain."
But Lord Littelbrane shook his sleek,
fair head, and refused to be comforted.
The shock was so great and so entirely
unexpected, that for once in his life it made
him forget himself and his dignity. Later
on it would be a cause of shame, when he
reflected that he had allowed these " out-
siders " to see that he possessed feelings
and emotions, and was not the iceberg he
strove to appear.
But the " outsiders " respected his grief
42 A CKACK COUNTY.
and, as before stated, thought none the
worse of him in consequence.
While all this was izoini? on, a consider-
able crowd had collected round the
Ill news travels apace, as the saying tells
us, and stra^^^lers bei]fan to pour in from
"What, dead? Straiizhtemdead? You
don't mean it ! "
"Yes, I do thouo^h. Terrible tliino^.
Been dead an hour. Had a bad fall and
broke his neck."
" Dear me ! How dreadful ! How did
it happen ? "
" The old story. Wire. Farmer deserves
to be strung up."
The above were a specimen of the
remarks that went the round. Everybody
looked shocked and saddened. For even
those who had not known Captain
Straighten! personally, knew him by
AN IRREPAEABLE LOSS. 43
siglit, and were sobered by the intelligence
of the disaster that had befallen him.
Men fear death ; and none so much as
the strong and healthy, whose minds refuse
to dwell on the possibility of annihilation,
and whose physical vitality laughs it to
scorn. But this sudden cutting off of one
of their number brought home, in a
forcible way, the dangers of hunting.
What had happened to Captain
Straightem mught have happened equally
to themselves. They — not he — might have
been lying dead inside the homely cottage.
Tiie mere idea was enou^li to shake their
nerves, and to send a cold shudder down
their spines. Sadl}^ and quietly they
gradually dispersed, whilst Burnett collected
his hounds — only twenty-one couple now,
instead of twenty-two — and moved slowly
off in the direction of the kennels. Ilis
orders were, that they should not come out
again for a fortnight. There was to
44 A CEACK COUNTY.
be no Imnting in the Morbey Anstead
country during that time.
If Lord Littelbrane could do nothing else,
he was determined to pay respect to the
dead man's memory.
And so ended the first da}- of the season.
It had both begun and finished badly, and
the Mutual Adorationites had receiyed a
blow which quite prostrated them. For
their king was no more, and they knew of
none to fill his place. Where was the man
who could combine such brilliant horse-
manship with such hauteur, such exclusiye-
ness and reserve ?
LORD LITTELBRANE FEELS LONELY.
A WEEK after the sad event recorded in
the last chapter, Lord Littelbrane and
General Prosieboy sat down to a tete-a-tete
dinner at the house of the former.
His lordship was a bachelor, and not
much given to running after the fair sex.
As a matter of fact, few of the Mutual
Adorationites were married men. Mutual
adoration did not seem to work well in the
bosom of one's family. Not many wives
admired and looked up to their husbands
as they ought. They had a nasty knack
of bringing their lords and masters* weak
points to light. So said the M. A.'s.
Anyhow they did not approve of matrimony
46 A ClUCK COUNTY.
as an institution. It broke up their ranks,
and introduced an altogether new and un-
Tvelcome element. Once a man married he
was never quite the same. He was no
longer allowed to follow his own judg-
ment, and his visiting list soon showed a
For thisj and many other reasons, it
resulted that if one of the genuine Mutual
Adorationites was rash enoui^h to turn
Benedict- he was generally treated with a
considerable amount of frigidity for a very
long time afterwards.
It took several years before the offence
was forgiven, and even if the bride were
altoc^ether charminix she never found her-
self wholly accepted. The M. A.'s, to one
man, felt that they owed her a grudge, for
weakening dear Adolphus's or dear Sidne3^'s
allegiance to their sacred bod3\ But as
regards Lord Littelbrane, he could not help
entertaining an uneasy conviction that
LORD LITTELBRANE FEELS LONELY. 47
some day or otlier lie was bound to get
married. An lieir to tlie title was im-
perative. He had told himself this for the
last ten or twelve years, during which he
made sundry virtuous resolutions, and
repeatedly determined to sacrifice his
bachelor independence ; but so far these
ofood resolves had come to nothinsf.
He would be forty-six next birthday,
and Littelbrane Castle was still without a
mistress. Match-making mammas, possess-
ing ambitious daughters, had angled for
him in vain, and now, in despair, they had
given him up as a bad job, and reluctantly
turned their attention elsewhere. Both the
late Captain Straightem and his lordship
seemed equally proof against feminine
blandishments, and it was rumoured in the
county that they would never take a wife
to weaken, if not destroy their intimacy,
and prevent them from being constantly
is A CRACK COUNTY.
But since his friend's sudden death, Lord
Littelbrane's whole mental condition had
undergone a complete alteration. Cir-
cumstances had brought about a curious
chamre in his ideas. When he looked
round at his great big barrack of a house,
with its endless rooms, swarms of servants,
and absence of an}- real comfort, it struck
him all at once that he was ver}^ lonely,
that many a labouring man, with a stout
red-cheeked wife and half a dozen babies,
was happier far than he. lie began to
wonder what it ^\ould feel like to be the
father of a family, to set his little children
on his knee, and play with their golden
curls. A strange yearning came over him
for sympathy and companionship — a sym-
pathy and companionship even closer than
that which he had just lost.
And thus wondering and speculating,
his thoughts reverted to a certain Lady
De Fochsey, who was both vounij and
LORD LITTELBRANE FEELS LONELY. 49
pretty, and the widow of a deceased
baronet. She was a very smart, natty little
lady, who in her scarlet jacket and white
waistcoat, did credit to his Hunt. The
Mutual Adorationites all knew her, and on
account of her good looks, received her as
one of themselves. True he had never
paid her any attention, but that might
easily be rectified, and he fancied she
would accept his advances graciously.
Still, it was a desperate plunge, this
which he contemplated taking — so des-
perate that nothing but the loss of his
friend could have made him entertain the
idea in earnest.
His first notion was to invite Lady De
Fochsey to come and take a quiet little
dinner with him, explaining that he felt
very melancholy and required cheerful
societv. He was convinced she was
cheerful. Her laugh rang out so merrily
at the covert side that it had once or twice
VOL. I. 4
50 A CKACK COUNTY.
actually aroused his curiosity as to the
cause of her mirth. Women ought to be
cheerful. lie liked them so, as long as
they were not " loud." He hoped she was
not " loud," and wished he knew her well
enough to make quite sure.
But when he came to consider the
slightness of his acquaintanceship with
Lad}" De Fochsey, he arrived at the con-
clusion that it was out of the question for
him to ask her to dinner in this sudden and
informal manner. So, as his solitude was
rapidly becoming unbearable, he invited old
General Prosieboy instead, v.dio although
he did not much appreciate the Castle
cuisine, liked being able to say : " Oh, ah !
my dear fellow ! If you've nothing better
to do to-night, come and take pot-luck
with me. Damme though, I forgot, I'm
dining with Lord Littelbrane. See you
some other time I hope." But he always
took good care to leave that " other time "
LOED LITTELBRANE FEELS LONELY. 51
indefinite, and never alluded to it wlien
next lie met the " dear fellow." The dininof
room at Littelbrane Castle was very laro^e
and also very cold. No matter how big
the fire, it only warmed one portion of the
apartment. The old windows rattled, the
old doors creaked, and the wind seemed to
blow in at all sorts of possible and impos-
Eound and round the dinner-table stalked
a pompous, grey-haired butler and a couple
of solemnly-stupid footmen. These wordiies
took special care to prevent their master
and his guest from indulging too freely in
the pleasures of the table.
The soup might have been a liquid
medicine, to be taken cautiously — one to
two table-spoons in a little water. The fish
was served out in such lilliputian quan-
tities, that it was only an aggravation to a
hungry, healthy man. The entree con-
sisted of a tiny oyster patty apiece, with
62 A CRACK COUNTY.
one sinnrle oyster in its midst — that is for
the eaters. There were plenty of patties on
the disli, but they were smuggled away
with a sleight-of-hand that would have
reflected credit upon Messrs. Maskelyne
and Cooke. This was the more provoking
as General Prosieboy was fond of oysters.
Mutton ? Yes ! there was mutton
certainly, but what was the good of that
when 3'ou were helped to a slice that
might have been carved from the breast
of a lark.
And yet, night after night. Lord Littel-
brane sat down to this mockerv of a meal
because he considered it to be " the thing ! '*
IJe would rather go without a morsel and
be waited upon by three pompous men-
servants, than he would dispense with their
services, and help himself as he liked, and
ho IV he liked.
So much for fashion.
But General Prosieboy was not exactly a
LORD LITTELBRANE FEELS LONELY. 53
fashionable man, and moreover lie pos-
sessed a remarkably good appetite.
At home he invariably insisted on his
parlour-maid putting each separate dish
on the table. Then he did c^et something
to eat. But really ! at Littelbrane Castle,
in spite of all the fine furniture, old armour,
and retinue of servants, when he got up
from the table he felt very nearly if not
quite as hungry as when he sat down
However, he was on his company
manners, and stood too much in awe of
Lord Littelbrane's exalted rank — his father
had made all his money in Prosieboy's
antibilious pills — to air his sentiments
aloud. Had he done so they would pro-
bably have been translated by oaths. On
the present occasion, with a mighty effort
of self-control, he succeeded in maintaining
a decorous silence, mentally determining to
have up that excellent piece of cold beef
H A CRACK COUNTY.
lie had had for luncheon, directly he
He fumed inwardly all the time the three
great, silent sentinels were in the room,
but when they removed their restraining
presence, carrying everything eatable away
with them that they could, the atmosphere
seemed suddenly to have grown less oppres-
sive. Then the two gentlemen drew up
their chairs close to the lire-side, and
placed the port and claret on the mantel-
piece where it was easily get-at-able.
After consumim? four or five c^lasses,
the strings of their tongues gradually
became unloosened. The Littelbrane wine
was good, and General Prosieboy revenged
himself upon it, for not having dined.
" Ahem ! " he said communicativelv, and
with the air of a man who considers he is
imparting a wonderful piece of intelligence.
" I forgot to tell you before, but I've seen
LOED LITTELBEAKE FEELS LO^^ELY. 55
His lordship at that moment was think-
ing quite sentimentally — thanks to the
Chateau Lafitte — of Lady De Fochsey's
ros}^, smiling face, her trim figure and
sparkling blue eyes.
" Eh ! what ! Seen him ? Seen who ? "
he asked with rather a guilty start.
" Why, the new man. The man who
comes in for all poor old Straightem's
property. The nephew, in short.''
" Have you, by Jove ! And what's he
like ? Can we have anything to do with
him ? " And as he made the inquiry. Lord
Littelbrane's countenance assumed an ex-
pression which seemed to say that he, for
one, was convinced the Mutual Adoration-
ites could not be hand in glove with a total
stranger, hailing from the colonies.
"Impossible," said General Prosieboy
His lordship gave a sigh of relief.
"Why?" he asked, subsiding into his
66 A CRACK COUNTY.
usual languid state, whicli forcibly sug-
gested a torpid liver.
" Because, as far as lean judge, lie's the
wrong sort altogether."
'' Ah ! I expected so, and should have
been very much astonished had he proved
" It seems he has lived all his life in
Australia, and has never been to England
before. In fact, one could almost tell as
much from looking at him. Colonist is
stamped upon him from the crown of his
hat to the sole of his boots."
" Poor devil ! ' exclaimed Lord Littel-
" Did Captain Straightem never mention
this bushman of a relative ? " asked the
General, with an elderly man's curiosity.
" I don't seem to have heard of him."
"Oh! yes, lots of times. But never
without a shudder. Poor Harry was so
refined," sighing heavily. "He told me,
LOED LITTELBRANE FEELS LONELY. 57
only the morning of his death, that the
fellow had arrived unexpectedly and pro-
posed running down to Straightem Court
to pay him a visit. 'Awful bore,' said
Harry, ' and the worst of it is, I don't
know how the deuce to put him off. He's
got a sort of right to come, since, unless I
marry and have children, he's the next heir
to the property.' "
" He has acquired a most unfortunate
right to it now," said General Prosieboy
" Yes, worse luck. Times are indeed
sadly changed. I wonder though if I
ought to be civil to the man on Harry's
account ? " And Lord Littelbrane looked
uneasily at his companion.
" I really don't see any necessity for it.
It does your Lordship's heart immense
credit even to have suggested such a thing ;
but, I assure you, you can't possibly
associate with this aborigine. If you had
68 A CEACK COUNTY.
onl}^ seen the creature as I saw him to-day,
at the railway station, dressed in a brown
velveteen suit, with a flarinir red tie. and a
pair of checked trousers that reminded one
of a chess-board, you would have recognised,
in spite of your natural kindness, that it is
quite out of the question for a man in
your position and of your rank to notice
so very peculiar a person. Why, damme !
he wears clothes that are enoui:^h in
themselves to make an3'body who has
the remotest notion of what is cus-
tomary in civilized societ}^ cut him on the
" And there is such a lot in clothes,"
murmured his lordship. " I think it was
Kingsley who said, you can transform any
gentleman into a blackguard — at least as
far as outward appearances go — by simply
taking away his white collar and substitu-
ting a coloured scarf in its stead. By-the-
bye, what is the duffer's name ? It's not
LOKD LITTELBEA:KE feels lonely. 59
Straiglitem, I know, tliank God for
that ? "
" No, it's Jarrett — Eobert P. Jarrett — I
saw it painted on his portmanteau."
" I wonder if Mr. Eobert P. Jarrett
means to favour us with his presence out
" I expect he is sure to," returned the
GeneraL " These Austrahans mostly take
kindly to sport."
" Confound the fellow ! We shall have
him jumping on my hounds, and making
that an excuse to scrape acquaintance with
me. Eeally Prosiebo}^ if he turns out
objectionable, as I fully expect from your
description of him, you must come to the
" With all my heart, my Lord," replied
his companion, dilating his nostrils, and
sniffing the air like an old war-horse who
smells powder and is eager to begin
the fray. " You leave Mr. Eobert P.
€0 A CE^CK COUNTY.
Jarrett to me. Ill soon settle Lim, never
" That's all right. Eemember ProsieLoy,
I count upon you should any emergency
And with these words, Lord Littelbrane
dismissed the subject.
A long silence succeeded, during which
host and guest lit a couple of cigars and
smoked away steadily. The occupation
evidently strained every faculty ; for con-
versation lan^^uished, both feelino- that after
their recent outburst of eloquence they
needed time to recruit their forces.
General Prosieboy was the first to make
a remark. It was scarcely as original as
might have been expected from the long
period of incubation required to give it
" Feels cold to-night," he said. " I
think we shall have a frost."
" Oh ! Ah ! very likely. Time of year
LORD LITTELBRANE FEELS LONELY. 61
we may expect them," answered his lord-
Another silence of five minutes followed
this brilliant sally.
Then the General a2:ain crave vent to an
oracular utterance :
" Shouldn't wonder if we had snow before
" No, nor I." ....
Whereupon they both puffed away at
their cii?ars harder than ever.
Their ideas appeared totally exhausted.
Even the weather failed to furnish a further
But by-and-bye a large lump of coal fell
down on the grate with a clatter. Lord
Littelbrane seized the tongs, and stooped
to pick it up. This broke the spell.
" Awful bore when coals tumble about,'*
" Awful," replied General Prosieboy.
Puff, puff, puff. Apparently neither of
62 A CRACK COUNTY.
them could think of anything more to say.
The General could only talk when he was
drunk or in a rac^e. Take away his oaths
and his liquor and he was nowhere. As
for Lord Littelbrane he never could under-
stand why when people dine together they
should be supposed to keep up a perpetual
chatter. What was the pleasure of it in
comparison with the fatigue ?
Eleven o'clock strikes, and General
Prosiebov rises from his seat, and throws
away the end of his cigar.
" Think I must be going home," he says.
"Must you?" rejoins Lord Littelbrane
passively. lie never presses his guests
to stay after half-past ten. Li the hunt-
ing season he invariably keeps early
" Yes, think so. Good night, my lord.
Hope you will cheer up before long."
General Prosieboy's hand is on the
handle of tlie door as he speaks. In
• LOED LITTELBRANE FEELS LONELY. 63
another moment lie would have vanished
into the corridor.
Ilis lordship plucked up all his courage,
and made a desperate effort.
" By the way," he said, whilst a flush
rose to his sallow face, " what's your
opinion of that little Lady De Fochsey ?
She's the right sort, ain't she ? "
The question took General Prosieboy
completely by surprise, but he was far too
diplomatic a gentleman to express the
astonishment that he felt.
" Oh, yes ! " he answered in an off-hand
way, seeing he was evidently desired to
express approval. " Quite the right sort ;
a very nice little woman indeed. I know
nothing whatever against her, except that
she's rather too thick with some of the
" Ah ! she's young. Shell soon learn to
distinguish, especially with the advantage
of a little judicious guidance. But I'm
64 A CRACK COUKTY.
keeping you standing ; good night, Prosie-
boy, good night."
And so saying, Lord Littelbrane shook
hands with his guest, and saw him out at
the hall door. But this last remark of his
host's had given the General much food for
No sooner was he fairly seated within the
sheltering walls of his one-horse fly, than
he drew a long breath of dismay.
" Thunder and lis^htninfr ! " he exclaimed
dejectedly. " So that's the little game, is
it ? Why ! bless my heart alive, I do
believe he's thinking of getting married.
Was there ever such a set-out? There
won't be one of us left at this rate. First
a death, then a marriage ! Upon my soul,
I hardly know which is the worst of the
two. As for the Ilunt, it's going to
the dogs altogether ; and if Lord Littel-
brane don't look out, he'll be having his
country over-run with strangers, and a
LORD LITTELBRANE FEELS LONELY. 65
lot of confounded radicals who not
only believe in but act on the principle
of one man being as good as another.
Such rot indeed ! " he wound up indig-
His heart was so heavy within him at the
mere thought of Lord Littelbrane's con-
templating matrimony, that when he got
home he found the cold beef insufficient to
comfort the sinkings of his inner man. He
was forced to take a very stiff tumbler of
brandy and water in addition.
"Just to quiet the system, Mary, my
dear ; just to quiet the system," he ex-
plained to his pretty parlour-maid (he
never would have an ugly servant in his
house), chucking her familiarly under the
" Hexactly, sir ; I understands."
" The fact of the matter is, Mary, I've
received a shock, and it has knocked me
all of a heap."
VOL. L 5
66 A CRACK COUNTY.
"Take another glass of brandy, sir.
It's uncommon soothing to the nerves."
"Yes, Mar}^, I will. I think your
suggestion is a wise one."
He found it so wise that it was close
upon one o'clock before he could at length
be induced to toddle off to his bed. Mary
had to help him to get there ; but once safely
between the sheets, thanks to the joint
effect of Lord Littelbrane's port and of his
own three-star Henessey, he slept the sleep
of the just.
lie had effectually soothed his nerves by
addling his wits.
A STKANGER IN THE LAXJ).
EoBERT Jarrett's motlier and tlie late
Captain Straiglitem had been only brother
As children, the boy and girl were
devoted to each other, but when they grew
up, fate, that capricious goddess, cast their
lots in ver}^ different places.
The young man went into the Guards,
looked brave and handsome in his uniform,
spent a considerable amount of money, idled
away his days, denied himself no luxury,
and, as times go, was a credit to his doting
As for Fanny, well, poor Fanny made
what was considered a most terrible
68 A CRACK COUNTY.
"mesalliance." She was destined to
marry into the aristocracy and she married
When this unfortunate event took place
she was very young ; only a month over
seventeen, and had but just returned from
a fashionable boarding school in Brighton,
where she had been finishing her education
previous to making her entry into society.
But, alas ! like a silly romantic child,
she fell desperately in love with a young
man, aged » twenty-one, who had been sent
down to StiHshire to learn farminij ;
presumably because he had not brains
enough to learn anything else, or to pass
the necessary examinations for the army.
At any rate, he took to turnips and oil-
He was a gentleman by birth, and that
was about all that could be said for him —
at least, so Squire Straighten! declared,
when his dauuhter came with tears in her
A STRANGER IN THE LAND. 69
pretty, blue eyes, and begged him to give
his consent to her engagement with Mr.
The squire turned purple in the face,
almost had a fit of apoplexy, and refused
flatly. The idea ! Wh}^, the girl must be
But Fanny was too much smitten by her
lover's pleasant manners, and professions
of affection, to listen to reason. She even
thouo^ht there was somethino; fine in making?
a sacrifice for the sake of him she loved.
Anyhow, she was young, ignorant and
Her grandmother had left her five thou-
sand pounds. Over this sum she possessed
absolute control. Master Charles' income
consisted of two hundred a year. He was
an orphan, and had neither expectations nor
interest ; but, to do him justice, he was
genuinely attached to Fanny. To make a
long story short, one fine day the impru-
70 A CI^ACK COUNTY.
dent and impatient young couple got
married secretly, trusting that when they
were actually man and wife the squire
would relent and be induced to make them
some further provision than that derived
from their own very limited means.
But, like man}^ others, they reckoned
without their host.
Old Squire Straightem flew into a
towering passion when he found that little,
innocent, blue- eyed Fanny had defied him
by taking the law into her own hands.
Eefusing to listen to her prayers for
forgiveness, he swore a mighty oath that
, she should never set foot ia5>ide his house
a^ain. And he was as cfood as his word.
Mr. and Mrs. Charles Jarrett were there-
fore obliged to fall back upon their own
resources. These, as wo know, were not
large. Fanny was inexperienced ; she had
been extravagantly brought up, and had
no notion of housekeeping.
A STEANGER IN THE LAND. 71
For six montlis tliey tried living in
England ; but they found that, do what
they would, they were running into debt.
No one could have had better intentions than
the poor little bride, but she had every-
thing to learn in her new life, and also a
good deal to unlearn. It came hardly to
her at first, and nobody need blame her if
she made a few blunders. Most of us
similarly situated would have done the
But they were a brave young couple,
and when things seemed likely to go from
bad to worse, they made up their minds to
shake themselves free of the old shackles
and start afresh in Australia. This they
did ; and with Fanny's five thousand
pounds Charles Jarrett bought a sheep
farm and stocked it with sheep.
Sometimes they had good years, some-
times they had bad ; but they managed to
keep their heads above water, and on the
72 A CRACK COUNTY.
wliole prospered fairly well. At all events
Fanny never regretted the step she had
taken, even although it had completely
estranged her from her father and brother.
Charles Jarrett was far too easy-going
and indolent a man to grow rich. A large
family — of whom Eobert was the eldest —
and as the years went b}^ very indifTerent
health, effectually prevented him from
makinfT a fortune.
Thus, when he died at the comparatively
early age of forty-eight, he was unable to
do more than leave his wife and children
But Robert, or Bob as he was familiarly
called, had alread}^ shown himself to be a
far more active, eneri]^etic and stirring
individual than his father. He had not
inherited Charles Jarrett's constitutional
laziness of disposition, which had effec-
tually prevented him from getting on in
A STI? ANGER IN THE LAND. 7»
The farm was left to Eobert. The youn^Tf
man soon discovered that to a great extent
it had been grievously mismanaged, and
that its powers of production had never
really been tested. His first care was to
put everything in thorough order.
Next he tried hard to improve the breed
of sheep and introduced several new strains
of blood. But he was not satisfied with
those that were available ; and after a
couple of years scraped enough money
together to provide for the family in his
absence, and to take him to England.
Naturally, he was eager to visit the
country where his mother had been
born and bred. lie was aware that,
as matters stood at present, Captain
Straightem's property would revert to
him. But he never counted on this
It seemed altoc^ether too remote, for
Captain Straightem was by no means an
74 A CRACK COUNTY.
old man, and miglit at any time take it
into his head to 2fet married.
Bob, in his own mind, was so convinced
that sooner or later his uncle would espouse
a better-half, that it very rarely occurred
to him to think of himself as only one step
removed from a magnificent estate and
close upon fifteen thousand a year.
No such thought actuated him when he
set foot upon English ground and deemed
it his duty to write and inform Captain
Straightem of his arrival, in case that
gentleman miglit express a wi.^h to make
his (Bob's) acquaintance.
To this letter he had received no reply ;
in lieu thereof came a lawyer's communica-
tion, formally worded, acquainting him of
the fact, that owinir to his uncle's sudden
decease in the hunting held, he was now
the possessor of Straightem Court, with all
its adjoining lands. I^ob's amazement may
be more easily conceived than described.
A STRANGER IN THE LAND. 75
111 fact his astonisliment was too great to
allow him to derive any immediate satisfac-
tion from the extraordinary alteration that
had taken place in his prospects.
It did just flash through his mind that
henceforth, if he chose, he might apply his
energies to improving the breed of English
rather than of Australian sheep, but that
It never even struck him that his
presence might be necessary at Straightem
Court, until he received a second letter
from the family solicitor, requesting his
immediate attendance. Then by slow
degjrees he beo'an to realize that he, who
was accustomed to rise with the sun, to
saddle and dress his own horse, to be
content with the coarse fare .and to put
his hand to every job that came in the
way, was now transformed into a fine
gentleman, who had nothing to do but take
his pleasure and amuse himself from
76 A CEACIv COL'NTY.
morning till night. This dawned upon Bob
as such a stupendous idea that it almost
took away his breath. It is not an easy
thing when all your thoughts have been
attuned to a particular groove, suddenly to
divert them into another and totally un-
familiar one. It takes a little time before
the adaptation becomes complete.
Bob was a young man who possessed an
immense amount of vitality and of that
nervous force which delights in work and
in conquering it. He liked the active, even
if somewhat rough, life which lie had
He enjoyed the responsibility of being
the head of the family and of feeling that
his brothers and sisters were dependent on
him. It sent a thrill of pleasurable pride
throu<]fh his frame to see their brio^ht and
happy faces as they came clustering round
him after a hard day's work. Somehow or
other the simple homely way in which they
A STUANGER IN THE LAND. 77
lived seemed to bind every member of the
family, from the eldest to the youngest, in
ties of close affection.
True they were not rich, each one had to
take his or her share in the daily toil, but
for all that they had been very, very
Would they be as happy if they lived in
a grand house, had any amount of money
to spend and lots of servants to wait upon
them, instead of waiting upon themselves
as they had hitherto been accustomed to
Bob hoped so ; but he was not quite
This sudden change in their lives seemed
to him a bit of an experiment ; it might or
it might not turn out well.
He was Australian born and bred, and
loved the sunny land of his birth ; he
possessed a sturdy independence and manly
blunt ness, which did very well for the
78 A CRACK CO 'J NT Y.
colonies, but he was sensitive enough to feel
tliat, in his new position, his manners would
probably require a considerable amount of
toning down. In Australia people did not
wrap their speech up in silver paper, they
said what tlie}^ meant and did not sneer at
conversation which owed its birth to home
mterests, and often to home interests alone.
But Bob had not been fuur and twenty
hours in the old country before he realized
that a subtle difference existed between it
and the new ; the former was more polished
if not so fresh ; more fastidious and critical,
though infmitely less light-hearted.
Even as regarded his dress, he soon came
to have considerable misgivings.
His brown velveteen suit, red tie, and
checked trousers, no longer afTorded him
quite the same satisfaction as on board ship.
Somehow they seemed out of place in
the London streets, where he noticed people
all dressed quietly and mostly in black or
A STKA^'GER IN THE LAND. 79
dark colours. Once or twice his appear-
ance evidently excited surprise, and lie
felt extremely uncomfortable, not knowing
exactly what there was about it that was
In fact, if General Prosiebov had but
known with how much inward trepidation
"The Duffer, The Brute, The Creature"
was about to enter into his kingdom, even
he might have felt mollihed and not been
quite so hostilely inclined towards Captain
Straightem's unknown nephew and suc-
But the die was cast ; the fiat had gone
Eobert P. Jarrett was doomed before-
The Mutual Adorationites had decided
that he should neither be known nor yet
Other people might take up with him if
they chose ; but they would not demean
€0 A CRACK COUiNTY.
themselves by having anything whatever
to do with an individual who wore the
wrong kind of clothes, and had no pre-
tensions of " the ric^ht sort."
Mr. Jarrett should be made to feel in
everj^ possible way that his presence in the
county was undesired and superfluous ;
that he was unpardonably occupying a
house which, but for him, might have been
inhabited by a good fellow ; and that
under no circumstances could he ever be
accepted as fit company for the Mutual
Adorationites. If he insisted on cominix
out hunting, of course they could not
actually prevent him. lie had a right to
gallop over the fields and tear after the
hounds if he chose.
But nobody need speak to him, except to
swear roundly at him if he got in the way,
or committed the smallest error of inex-
They could all stare at him blankly, and
A STRANGER IN THE LAND. 81
refuse to recognize his presence as a fellow-
creature. They could feign deafness if he
hazarded a remark ; blindness if he came
across their path.
Thev could show him the cold shoulder
to his face, and abuse him to their heart's
content behind his back.
And this the Mutual Adorationites, ac-
cording to their usual manners and customs,
were determined to do.
He should be snubbed, and snubbed
For had not General Prosieboy given
out that their poor old friend Straightem's
successor was a " duffer " and an " out-
sider," with whom they ought not to asso-
ciate ? And would it not be showing dis-
respect to the dead man's memory, if they
received with open arms a nephew of
whom, in his lifetime, he was evidently
Yes. There was such a thing as esprit
VOL. I. 6
82 A CEACK COUNTY.
de corps. If the Mutual Adorationltes did
not wish to be swamped altogether by the
odious radical wave of the century, they
were bound to uphold their ancient habits
Moreover, they were perfectly satisfied
with themselves as they were, and wanted
no innovations introduced amongst their
OPPRESSED BY SO MUCII GRANDEUR.
Although our friend Bob liad lieard and
read a good deal of tlie luxurious and, to a
great extent, indolent way in which Eng-
lish gentlemen live when at all well ofT, he
had no really definite notions on the subject
until he arrived at Straightem Court. His
mother had often talked to her children of
the magnitude of her old home ; but then
seeing a thing with one's own eyes is very
different from having an impression made
upon your mind through the medium of
somebody else's optics.
The number and size of the rooms at
Straightem Court fairly amazed Bob.
" What are they all for ? What are they
84 A CRACK COUNTY.
all for?" he kept on asking of the family
solicitor who showed him over the pre-
mises, and had promised to remain for a
day or two.
"For use, I suppose," replied that worthy,
with a strong accent of reproof.
" For use ! Do you mean to tell me that
one parlour is not enough for anybody ?
Why, on my farm in Australia, we never
dreamt of wanting a dining, drawing,
breakfast, bilhard and reading room, as
3'ou seem to have here. And what's more,
it ain't comfort — leastways, to my mind,"
concluded Bob, decidedlv.
His companion looked at him with a
smile half supercilious, half contemptuous.
" You'll soon fiQt to alter some of vour
opinions, Mr. Jarrett. It is quite evident
that you have lived very much out of the
" Damn his impudence," muttered Bob,
sotto voce, "He talks as if there were do
OPPEESSED BY SO MUCH GRANDEUR. 85
Other country but his own particular, little
sea-girt island. It's wonderful how ignorant
and how cheeky these Englishmen are.
There's no getting them to see themselves
in their true light."
But he kept his reflections to himself,
and turning sharply to his uncle's solicitor,
" And pray, wdiat about the servants ?
Am I supposed to keep all this troop of
idle people, eating me out of house and
home ? Because it strikes me that would
come uncommon rough on a fellow,
especially w^hen, like myself, he is a
stranger at the game."
" You will be able to arrange all these
matters to your own satisfaction when once
you have regularly entered into possession,"
said the other stiffly, beginning to think
what a terrible, sharp, fresh, outspoken
aborigine this was.
" Come ! that's a mercy at any rate,"
86 A CEACK COU^'TY.
said Bob, with a sigh of relief ; for the
mere contemplation of maintaining so large
a staff of domestics was oppressive, and
filled him with dismay. Yet, distrustful of
his own opinions on subjects of which
hitherto he had had no experience, he
added seriously : " Listen, Tomlinson. You
are a sensible man, and can give me a
straightforward answer to a straightforward
question. I only want to get at the reason
of things, and no doubt you can tell me
what is the use of all these idle folks ? It
seems to me there are too many of them by
half, and they only make work for one
Mr. Tomlinson scratched his head, and
looked somewhat perplexed. The question
put thus, was not altogether easy to answer.
"It is customar}^ Mr. Jarrett, in all large
houses, to keep up a good establishment —
that is to say, where there are sufficient
OPPEESSED BY SO MUCH GEANDEUE. 87
Bob's face assumed a thoughtful expres-
" I don't see," he said, " how one person,
living quite alone like my late uncle, could
possibly need so many people to minister
to his wants. It seems an anomaly for a
single man to employ such a number of
servants just to attend to his mere personal
requirements. Now, if / were an English
gentleman, I should hate to feel myself
dependent upon my cook, butler, or foot-
man, as the case might be. It's turning
a fellow into a regular slave, and a slave of
a very poor, contemptible order."
" I suppose you learnt those ideas out in
Australia," said Mr. Tomlinson rather un-
comfortabl}^, and on that account trying to
infuse an extra amount of satire into his
" Perhaps I did, and perhaps I didn't,"
answered Bob, a bit nettled by the solici-
tor's overbearing manner. " Anyhow,
88 A CEACK COUKTY.
whether I learnt them in Australia or else-
where, they are ideas of which I do not
feel at all ashamed, and on the contrary-
should despise myself if I did not entertain.
There is a padded person in this house,
with sham white hair, and sham round
calves, who comes to opon the door. Can
you tell me what that cumbrous mass of
human flesh, with its painful deficiency of
human brains, is good for? — since I am
convinced he has never done a stroke of
real, honest work in his life. I ask this
because the individual in question has
aroused my curiosity."
"I presume you mean Charles, the foot-
man. A very hue, well-made man, over
six feet in height, and an ornament to any
gentleman's establishment," returned Mr.
"Ha, ha!" laughed Bob. "Just as a
fatted ox is an ornament to the gentleman's
farm. I beiiin to see matters in a clearer
OPPRESSED BY SO MUCK GRANDEUR. 89
liglit. Show evidently comes before use
" Charles answers the bells, waits at
table, and, as far as I know, has always
proved himself to be an honest and respect-
able servant," said Tomlinson, testily.
" My dear sir, honesty and respectability
are very excellent things in their way.
Nobody has a greater respect for them
than myself. But when you find these
admirable qualities united to intense slow-
ness of perception and pomposity of move-
ment, to crass stupidity and the sloth of an
overfed pig, then you can't help thinking
that they are not all-sufficient. Now, last
night I wanted a glass of whisky and
water. At home I could have gone to the
cupboard, fetched the whisky bottle, boiled
myself a drop of water in the kettle, and
got what I wished for without further
trouble and little or no delay. Here, there
are a butler and a footman, therefore I rang
90 A CEACK COUNTY.
the cell. They either did not, or would
not hear it. In about five minutes' time,
after pulling frantically at the bell-rope
till at last it gave way, my friend Charles
appears. I explain my requirements. He
disappears. I wait another ten minutes.
Presumably the water is being boiled.
Unluckily there is no longer any bell to
pull. I wait impatiently, and try to
smother the oaths that insist on rising
to my lips. Presently I hear a leviathan
tread — the tread of an elephant — sounding
down the passage. With the deliberation
with which all his movements are attended,
Charles brings into the room a hot water
jug. There is neither glass, whisky, nor
sugar. I. ask him where they are. He
answers that he has forgotten, but will
brii)2[ them in a minute. A minute, indeed !
Exactly a quarter of an hour has elapsed
since I first made known my modest de-
mand. By this time, all my desire for a
OPPRESSED BY SO MUCH GRANDEUR. 91
glass of comforting liquor has vanished.
I resolve to do without it. No doubt I am
all the better for my abstention, but it's no
use telling me that this sort of thing is
real comfort. It's downright bondage and
nothing more, and comes from your old
habits, your old institutions and your old
Mr. Tomlinson drew liimself up to his
full height, mentally classifying Bob as an
" I am sorrj our manners and customs
should appear so inferior to your Aus-
tralian ones," he said, with an ill-disguised
" It's not that," Bob explained eagerly.
" Only you don't seem to value Time in
the way we do. Now, to waste a quarter
of an hour over a drop of whisky would
appear to us almost a sin ; and not only
a sin, but downright ridiculous into the
bargain. But then, we are used to waiting
«2 A CRACK COUKTY
upon ourselves, which no boubt makes all
" We English are a conservative race, I'll
admit," returned Mr. Tomlinson, in a more
conciliatory tone ; " but it is rather hard
to find one's own children turn round and
" My dear sir," exclaimed Bob, pray
don't imagine for a single moment that
I have not the greatest respect and ad-
miration for your race. Why ! what have
I come over here for, except to pick up
a few wrinkles, and profit by some of your
insular notions But you must forgive me
if, in my blundering way, I try to dis-
tinguish where you are ahead of us, and
where we are ahead of you. We look up
to old England with intense veneration, but
then, even the best of mothers gets ancient,
and leaves her offspring with an advantage
of youth on their side. There are too
many of you over here. Your population
0PPEES3ED BY SO MUCH GRANDEUE. 93
iacreases, and you are bound in by tlie sea.
Soon tlie question will be : ' What shall we
eat ? How shall we exist ? ' In Australia
and America we have still plenty of room,
thank God! but on the other hand our
manners are not polished, and we want a
great deal of the refinement for which you
" I am pleased to hear you make the
admission, Mr. Jarrett."
" I feel disposed to make any number
of admissions, Mr. Tomlinson, only I must
not take up your time by inflicting too
many of my crude, colonial opinions upon
you. And now, what do you say to
accompanyiuGf me to the stables? A real
English hunter is what I have lon^^ed all
my life to behold."
The solicitor assented to this proposition,
whereupon Bob and his mentor gave up
arguing and proceeded direct to the
NOT HALF A BAD SORT OF GENT
As is generally the case in most good
hunting counties, great care and attention
had been bestowed upon the equine depart-
ment. The stables at Strai^htem Court were
approached by a massive stone archway,
rendered picturesque by the luxuriant ivy
which cluno' to its walls.
This archway led into a square, neatly-
tiled court-yard, round three sides of which
ran the hunters' loose boxes, the remaining
one being devoted to wash-houses, harness
rooms, SiC. The late Captain Straighlem
had prided himself on the number and the
superior quality of his horses. Xo man in
the whole county owned better animals or
ones of a higher class.
"NOT HALF A BAD SORT OF GENT." 95
Out of sixteen, nearly all were thorough-
bred, or next door to it.
This fact, perhaps, was not remarkable
in itself, but it was rendered so by every
single quadruped being up to fourteen
stone. And those who know anything of
horseflesh will at once recognize how much
time, trouble and money must have been
expended by the deceased gentleman to
achieve such a result.
It is far from being easily obtained.
As a rule, the class of thoroughbreds
seen in the hunting field is represented by
weedy screws, long and narrow, pos-
sessing handy heels and suspicious looking
fore-legs. Nhie times out of ten they are
worthless cast-ofTs from the turf, who have
been condemned at the very first trial, and
never been allowed the chance of disgracing
themselves in public.
When our friend Bob walked into the
Straightem Court stables, and glanced down
96 A Cr.ACK COUNTY.
tlie loni,^ line of roomy, loose boxes, with
their small-headed, satin-coated inmates,
for the first time since his arrival in
England he expressed himself in terms of
"Yes," he said, turning vivaciously to
his companion, " you beat us here, I'll
admit. Our horses are all very good in
their way, but they are not a patch on
these. They are a rough, ragged, common-
looking lot in comparison. Not but what
they can go — aye, and jump also. Ill back
some of our kauG^aroos at home to cet to
the bottom of the best horse ever foaled.
It's wonderful how the beggars slip over
the ground. Occasionally, too, we come
across timber that is real awkward. But
for all this, I know quite well how very
superior your English hunting is."
" I'm delighted you should think any-
tiling superior over here, Mr. Jarrett," said
Tonilinson, still maintaininuf a tone of
"NOT HALF A BAD SORT OF GENT." 97
asperity. " You've been very hard to
satisfy so far."
" Well, anyway, I'm satisfied now ; I
don't mind confessing how impatient I am
to try my hand at some hona-Jide fox-
hunting, such as Australia cannot furnish."
" You have a stud of horses here, Mr.
Jarrett, which I take it will enable you to
see as much of the sport as you like. I'm
no great connoisseur in such matters my-
self, but I always heard that no one was
so famous for the quality of his cattle as my
late respected client."
" Ah ! poor chap ! " exclaimed Bob, his
face growing suddenly grave, " I was quite
forgetting about him. Of course, never
havin^f known him makes a lot of differ-
ence ; nevertheless it seems horrid of me
to be looking forward to riding his gees,
when he is hardly cold in his grave."
'* It does strike one as rather soon, cer-
tainly," acquiesced Mr. TomlinsoiJ.
VOL. I 7
98 A CKACK COUNTY.
Bob Stuck his hands into his trousers
pockets, and for a second appeared to be
revolving some mental problem. It did
not take him long to come to a solution,
for in another minute he said, speaking
decisively, as if to convince himself as well
as his hearer :
" It's impossible to pretend to have any
personal feeling for a man who is an
absolute stranger to you. Of course, I am
sorry my uncle's death should have oc-
curred ; but if I were to go about in sack-
cloth and ashes, then I should feel like a
most tremendous humbug. Besides," and
his face lit up with youthful enthusiasm,
" I can't help wanting to hunt when I get
a chance. By-the-bye, do 3'ou happen to
know when the hounds meet ai^ain ? "
" I really have no idea," returned Mr.
Tomlinson disapprovingly ; for Bob's
manners were not at all in accordance with
his notions of what those of a iicntleman
"NOT HALF A liAD SORl' OF GENT." 99
occupying his client's present important
position should be. " You know Matthews,
no doubt ? " and he turned interrogatively
towards Captain Straightem's stud-groom,
who up till now had stood silently by,
lookinof at his new" master with a very
dubious expression of countenance.
If Matthews was anything, Matthews was
conservative, and like Mr. Tomlinson, he
perceived a good deal in Bob's aspect and
attire not exactly in accordance with his
ideas of the appearance a real " out-and-
out swell " should present.
" Yes, sir," he said in answer to the
law^yer's inquiry. " 'Ounds don't go out
'afore Monday week, and," sotto-voce, " they
w^ould not go then, if Lord Littelbrane had
" Not before Monday week ! " exclaimed
Bob, with a shade of disappointment.
" Then I shall be obliged to curb my
impatience. However," addressing Matthews
100 A CRACK COUKTY.
in his quick, bright way, " I've already
made up my mind which horse I shall ride."
" Indeed, sir ! " said the stud-groom, not
without a touch of irony. " May I make
so bold as to inquire your choice ? "
" Yes ; " said Bob, " this is the animal
that takes my fancy. I don't set up for an
authorit}^ but according to my views, he's
the pick of the whole basket," and so say-
ing, he opened the door of the nearest box,
in which was standing a most admirably
shaped and perfectly proportioned chestnut.
" You're not far out, sir," said the old
groom, with a pleased smile beginning to
steal over his face. " I see as 'ow you
knows a good hoss when you sees him."
" I ought to," replied Bob ; " for one
way and another, I have had plenty to do
with horses. What do vou call this hand-
some fellow ? "
" Kingfisher, sir.'*
" And not half a bad name, thouiih he is
"NOT HALF A BAD SORT OF OENT." 101
sucli a thorough gentleman, that he ought
to have been ' The King ' without the
' fisher.' But, I say, " suddenly bending
down and inspecting a couple of half-healed
wales on the good horse's forearms, " what's
the matter here ? He looks as if he had
been in the wars."
Matthews' naturally impassive face began
" This, sir," he said, in a curiously
subded voice, " is the animal on which
Captain Straightem met his death. King-
fisher was his favourite mount — and rightly
so— for a finer hunter never looked through
a bridle. But," with a sigh, " the hoss has got
a bad name now, and I'm afraid it will stick
to him all his life, though he don't deserve
it — not one bit. It was no fault of his that
the master came to grief ; and, I tell you,
sir, I went to look at the fence. I could
see the hoof-marks where Kingfisher took
ofi* ; but that there infernal wire was quite
102 A CRACK COUNTY.
three yards away from the hedge. No
animal living could have cleared it. But —
there — there, I can't bear to think of it all."
And so saying, Matthews, totally over-
come by the recent sad occurrence, and by
the stio-ma which he imagined would attach
to his favourite horse henceforth and for
ever, turned sharply away so as to hide two
great tears that were coursing slowly down
his weatherbeaten cheeks.
Up till now Bob had taken somewhat of
a dislike to the man. He fancied he was
airified and stuck-up ; but as he listened to
the husky tones in which Matthews con-
cluded the above speecli, his heart grew
suddenly soft, and yielding to a kindly
impulse, he laid his hand on the old groom's
" Look here, my man," he said, glancing
down at him with a pair of bright, yet
compassionate eyes, " you don't cotton over
and above much to me, I know. One
"NOT HALF A BAD SOKT OF GENT." 103
always feels these sort of things without
being told 'em. From all I hear, you have
had a very good master, and therefore I,
for one, say you are quite right not to
welcome a new one in too much of a
" It ain't that exactly, sir," interrupted
Matthews, with evident embarrassment ;
" leastways, not altogether."
" Well, never mind ; we need not go into
all the ins and outs just now, but I can
make a pretty shrewd guess as to your
feelings, and, by jingo, were I in your place
I should feel exactly the same. Moreover,
Matthews, I can see quite plainly that
you're not easy in your mind about King-
fisher. You think after what has happened,
I shall probably want to sell him."
" Oh, sir, but you've just guessed my
thoughts entirely," and once more Matthews'
eyes began to blink suspiciously, whilst he
cleared his throat with evident effort.
104 A CRACK COUNTY.
" Now look here,'' said Bob, " I daresay
I'm very far from being the sort of master
you have been accustomed to ; but that
ain't my fault any more than it is yours. I
may be rough ; nevertheless, when I say a
thing I mean it ; and I give you my word
of honour that the chestnut shall never pass
into strani^e hands. I know without bein^
told what a good horse he is. I will keep
him and ride him fairly, just as if all this
bad business had never happened ; and
when he gets too old for work, and past
picking up a comfortable livelihood in the
green iields, then we'll just send a bullet
through the poor fellow's head and put him
out of his misery. There, does that satisfy
3^ou ? " and Bob looked the stud-groom
straight in the face.
All of a sudden, Matthews seized Bob's
hand and began jerking it up and down,
exactly as if he were at work on a pump-
"NOT HALF A BAD SORT OF GENT." 105
This process lasted several seconds. At
last lie found 'Voice enough to say
. " God bless you, sir, for those kind
words. They show that you have got a
good heart. And it would just about have
broken me down to have seen the best
horse in this, or any county, put up for
sale at public auction. I bred him myself ;
handled and broke him in. Nobody except
me and my poor master ever knew how good
he was. Oh, dear ! oh, dear ! the thought
of losing Kingfisher as well as Captain
Straightem has pretty nigh drove me mad,"
and he wiped his brow with a red cotton
" My poor old chap, don't give the
matter another thought. I have promised
not to sell the horse, and nothing shall
induce me to do so."
And so saying, Bob, who was himself
beginning to feel a little affected by
106 A CRACK COUNTY.
Mattliews' emotion, left the stables and
strolled leisurely towards the house.
Matthews looked after him long and
"Yes," he muttered to himself, " he may
be a bit rough — in fact, he is rough.
There ain't one man in a thousand as has
got the captain's beautiful, soft, lazy
manner ; but for all that, he's not half a
bad sort of gent. Anyway, I intend to do
my dooty by him and be all on the square.
I'll let no one rob him if I can help it."
And later on, if Matthews ever heard a
disparaging w^ord about Bob uttered in his
presence, he always looked severely at the
offender, and said :
" You're talking of what you know no-
thing about. Now I can tell you for a fact
that Mr. Jarrett is a truer gentleman than
many of those as thinks a lot more of
themselves and is not half so iiood in
LONGING FOR A RIDE.
A WEEK passed slowly away, and never in
his life had Eobert P. Jarrett, Esq., felt
more thoroughly bored and altogether
miserable. His new prosperity sat uneasily
upon him. He missed the simple laborious
open air life to which he had been accus-
tomed. If he attempted to do the most
ordinary thing for himself, he found that
there was nearly always, within arm's
reach, some individual whose duty it was
to perform that thing, and who felt
aggrieved and astonished by " The Master ■ '
encroaching upon his or her rights and
To be thus waited upon, might soon
108 A CRACK COUNTY.
have grown bearable to one unaccustomed
to luxury, had the particular thing only
been well done. But this it never was.
To take one small instance amongst
Bob had always been in the habit of
sharpening his own razors. It is possible
that they were not invariably perfectly
stropped, but at any rate, he sharpened
them to his entire satisfaction. But now
he was no longer allowed to continue this
practice. The gentleman of the padded
calvet; took charge of his shaving apparatus,
and professed to honour it with his personal
supervision. The consequence was that
never before had Bob's chin suffered to
such an extent. Hardly a morning passed
without its receiving some injury of a pain-
ful and unsightly nature.
His clothes were another source of
They were constantly being folded up
LONGING FOE A RIDE. 109
and put away in drawers and cupboards
whose very existence he knew nothing of.
To find any particular garment was like
looking for a needle in a barrel of bran.
It was enough for him to place an entirely
clean pocket handkerchief in his pocket
over night to discover it, after a long
search, deposited next morning in the
dirty linen basket, along with socks worn
for three or four hours only, collars that
had not a stain or a disfiguring mark upon
them, and shirts that looked as if they had
just returned from the washerwoman's
Now these things, although trifles, were
trifles utterly opposed to Bob's habits,
principles and education. He had a horror
of waste, but more especially of that waste
so seldom considered, i.e., the needless
expenditure of human labour and of human
vitality. His theory was, that people
should use their heads and save their hands.
110 A CIIACK COUNTY.
" TJdilk wliat you have got to do, and
then do it ! " he often said to the men
employed on his farm ; " but never put
out your strength needlessly. For instance,
I drop a handkerchief and a knife out of
my pocket ; if I am wise, I pick them both
up together. The one action of stooping
answers a double purpose ; but a foolish
man will pick up first the one and then the
other. Instead of bending down once, he
bends twice, and by so doing expends
ph^^sical force, which with a very little
consideration might have been economized."
Bob's theories were, no doubt, all very
well in their way, but he had not been
four and twentv hours in the mother
country before discovering that, when
tested, they were practically useless. It
seemed to him tliat mam' of the lower
classes in Eu«dand had never been taunht to
think. At least, that was the only way he
could account for their stupidity. As
LONGING FOR A EIDE. lU
for the domestic servants at Straic^litem
Court, they almost maddened him. One
and all lived in a little narrow groove,
filling their stomachs and starving their
intellects, and performing their daily tasks
without an atom of forethought or in-
Perhaps it was because Bob had been
brought up as a very poor man that habits
of waste, luxury and expenditure did not
come easily to him when he suddenly found
himself placed in the position of a rich
To have plenty of money at one's com-
mand, no doubt was pleasant ; but there
were certain accompaniments of fortune
which appeared almost intolerable to the
simply reared Australian.
And amongst the most intolerable,
strange to say, he classed his daily meals.
To eat breakfast, luncheon and dinner
in stately solitude, and be solemnly stared
112 A CRACK COU^'TY.
at and execrably waited upon by a couple ot
stolid men-servants, was almost more than he
could stand. Over and over again he felt
as if he must jump up from the table — they
w^ere so horribly slow — and just take what
he wanted, independent of the fuss and the
dignity and the needless procrastination.
It set every nerve on tension, and filled
him with a mad desire to kick butler and
footman out of the room, and dispense
with their services alt02fether.
At such times he felt extremely home-
sick and his thoughts would wander off to
the pleasant, sociable meals of Australia.
In his mind's eye he could see his mother
sittincf at one end of the table, smilinfj
tenderlv at him. lie could see himsell
occupying the seat opposite, and all the
bright, eager, healthy, happy faces of his
young brothers and sisters, as they crowded
round the board and looked up to him as
the head of the family.
LOXJING FOU A EIDE. 113
Once more he heard the merry hum of
voices and peals of light-hearted laughter,
mixing with the clatter of knives and forks,
whilst from the oldest to the youngest each
tried to suppl}^ not only his own, but also
his neighbour's wants. There was little
enough of ceremony about those dinners.
And yet how jolly they were ! How
entirely free from silly, unmeaning con-
ventionality. Bob told himself he would
rather eat a mutton chop over there than
partake of Lord ^Mayor's fare at Straightem
Court ; in fact, he became so nervous, that
he positively dreaded the long, dull stately
banquets, eaten amidst outward surround-
ings of magnificence, but with an inward
sense of intense discomfort and annoyance.
True, he had only to express a wish for
the men-servants to retire ; but that was
precisely what he dared not do. He knew
he was raw, he knew he was ignorant, and
in his innermost heart Durned a consuming
VOL. I. 8
114 A CRACK COUNTY.
ambition in all things to imitate the habits
and customs of a real county gentleman.
" If I am to live here in future," he
mused, with the common sense characteristic
of him, " I must get to be one of them.
I can tell by my own feelings that I've
got the deuce of a lot to learn. It's queer
that so many of these English habits should
go so much against the grain with me, but
I'll force myself to fall in with them all the
It was a brave resolution, rendered the
more so because he had to exercise an
immense amount of will-power to put it
into force, besides - a good deal of self-
control, and what — to him — was personal
Liberty had been the one predominating
feature of his Colonial life. The bonds
imposed by civilization had hitherto sat
lightly upon him. lie was a child of the
soil, of the sun, of the sky, of tlie wind ;
LONGING FOR A RIDE. 115
and as such, free and unconventional. To
speak the truth and do your duty appeared
to him better than all the most subtle and
specious of religions.
And now he felt cramped and limited,
like a man confined in a strait jacket. He
panted for air, for space. England seemed
to him crreat and vet small : orreat in her
commercial activity, her factories, her vast
and busy emporiums ; but small, in that
she could not see how her love of comfort,
of luxury and pleasure, was like the
Eomans of old, slowly but surely bringing
about her downfall. The nation wanted
rousing ; like an over-fed chikl, it was
surfeited and sick.
Then in the midst of these tragically
severe reflections, Bob's mind would dart
off again to home. He thought of his
favourite sister ; dear, bright-e3'ed, good-
natured Belle, who was always ready with
sympathy on every occasion, and to whom
116 A CRACK COUNTY.
he invariably confided all liis sorrows and
disappointments. Little Tottie too, with
her rosy face, and comical upturned nose.
How he wished they were with him. He
began to long for somebody to talk to.
For Mr. Tomlinson had left, and Bob, who
was not accustomed to his own society,
quickly wearied of it and pined for com-
He missed the occupations of his every-
day life on the farm ; and unacquainted as
3'et with his new duties, he wandered
aimlessly about from house to stable, from
stable to garden, and from garden to
He would have given a ten pound note
to set to work and dress a horse, dig a
potato bed, or round up the cattle in the
bii: <]^reen undulatino- fields.
liut allhoui]:li Englishmen miizht con-
descend to such occupations in other
countries, they could not do so in their
LO^'GIXCr FOR A EIDE. 117
own. Caste and custom equally for-
At last this lonsf, lonof week came to an
end, and tlie meets of the Morbey Anstead
hounds were once more advertised in the
Bob's spirits rose as he conned them
over ; the depression which had crept upon
him vanished. Once more he was all
eagerness and expectation.
His intense wish to go out with a first-
rate pack of English fox-hounds, and judge
for himself what the national sport was
really like, at length appeared in a fair
way of being fulfilled. He looked forward
to this novel experience with all the ardour
of a child.
November the fifteenth broke very dif-
ferently from November the first.
The one day had been made up of gloom
and fog, the other was as brilliant as a blue
sky and clear sunshine could render it.
118 A CRACK COUxNTY.
A soft air blew, the fields were vividly
green, the hedgerows only just beginning
to change colour, and but for a few flut-
tering leaves falling with lii>ht irrefjular
motion to the ground, one might have
fancied that summer was still lingering,
loth to take a seven months' farewell of
On this eventful moriiinir Bob woke
early, and spent an unusual time over his
toilet. To tell the truth, until now he had
never given it a thought.
But alas ! there were manv difTicullies in
the way such as he had not dreamt of.
These, perhaps, may be better under-
stood when it is hinted that he possessed
neither breeches nor boots. The necessity
of such articles had not occurred to him,
and even now he did not consider them to
be of very paramount importance.
But his state of mental serenity soon
received a severe shock.
LONGING FOR A KIDE. 119
Charles the solemn, Charles the lethargic,
Charles the padded, was he who dealt the
blow. He informed his master that
without such articles of costume he could
not possibly be seen in the hunting field.
" Why, bless my heart alive," expostu-
lated Bob, with considerable animation,
" when we 2fokan2:aroo chasino^ in Australia
we none of us care twopence what we
wear. We think only of the sport, not of
"Yes, sir, I suppose so, sir," answered
Charles, not yielding an inch from the
position he had assumed.
" Why ! have you ever been out there ? "
asked Bob quickly.
" No, sir ; never, sir."
" Then what made you say, ' I suppose
" Because," said Charles with a huge
accession of dignity, " I himagined that
them sort of way was good enough for
120 A CRACK COUNTY.
the Colonies, but they don't do over here.
Gents is more pertikler."
" How do you mean ? I don't quite
" They likes to looh like gentlemen," re-
sponded Charles unsympathetically.
This answer had an exceedingly dispirit-
ing effect upon Bob. He wondered what
Charles meant by it ? Did he intend to
say that no man could look like a gentle-
man unless he wore boots and breeches
out hunting, or was the remark applicable
only to himself ?
" What the dickens am I to do, then ? '*
he enquired despondently.
Charles scratched his head ; an operation
which apparently furnished him with an
" Couldn't you get into some of Captain
Straightem's breeches ? " he suggested.
" You and he are about of a size, thous^h
you ain't shaped exactly alike."
LONGINa FOR A RIDE. 121
But Bob firmly repudiated this notion.
It seemed to him quite sufficient to step
into the dead man's shoes, inherit his
propert}^, and ride his horses. He drew
the line at wearinn^ his clothes. There was
something unnatural and repulsive in the
" No, no ; of course I couldn't,"
he answered indignantly. " Td sooner
cut my throat first. Don't mention it
again." And he looked sternly at
The latter, though infinitely disgusted,
gave up the point, but not before he had
succeeded in detracting considerably from
Bob's pleasure, and making him feel on
thoroughly bad terms with himself.
Finally, after much hesitation, and still
more perplexity, Susan the housemaid was
politely called for, and requested to sew
on two elastic straps to the hem of Bob's
everyday trousers. With this contrivance,
122 A CEACK COU^'TY.
he devoutly hoped his pantaloons would
stop in their place.
Nevertheless, a species of subdued irri-
tation pervaded his being.
Charles' remarks had left their sting, and
the supercilious smile which wreathed his
fat and oih' countenance, whilst the straps
were being adjusted, still further served to
incense Bob and to increase his anxieties as
to his " get-up."
He had very little personal vanity,
perhaps because as yet it had never been
called into play. Clothes, as clothes, had
not formed one of the chief studies of his
life, as thev do of the modern " Masher."
The cut of his coat, the sit of his collar,
the c^laze of his cuffs, and elec^ance of his
cane, had seldom given him more than a
passing thought ; but now, all at once, he
began to conceive of the immense benefits
which such important items confer upon a
man moving, or aspiring to move, in good
LONGING POR A EIDE. 123
English society. When, eventually, he
sallied forth, he could not help confessing
to himself that even Charles' opinion
carried weight. He would have felt many
degrees easier in his mind could he but
have been convinced of that individual's
approval instead of his undisguised scorn.
The influences of the mother country
were already at work ; and Bob was soon
destined to learn how important a factor
dress is in the hunting field, and how
often by it, and it alone, men are judged,
accepted or rejected.
Ties, bows, buttons, breeches. Who can
affect to despise ye ?
Across Bob's mind flashed a little in-
cident, which long ago he remembered
having read in some English magazine.
The words recurred to him vividly.
" A man once came out hunting who did
not see fit to wear a white collar. In its
place he sported a blue spotted comforter,
124 A CRACK COUNTY.
which he wcund several times round his
thick purple neck. jS^ow that man never
got on. He was cut by the county.
Nobody knew him. Nobody dreamt of
asking him to dinner. The reason ? Oh !
the reason was simple enough. The com-
forter damned him. He might have been
ever so good a fellow, but not a soul would
take the trouble to find out what a person
was like wdio was rash enough to dispense
with white collars."
This passage seemed, under present cir-
cumstances, so well adapted to himself,
that Bob's spirits sank away to nothing at
Thank o-oodness ! he had on a well
glazed collar, but then it was of a turn
down shape, which Charles strongly con-
demned ; and to make matters worse, his
tie was blue, and spotted also.
As for his nether limbs, when he thought
of those two elastic straps, and how all his
LONGING FOR A RIDE. 125
enjoyment and moral peace depended upon
their standing the strain to which they
were subjected, he really had not courage to
glance at them.
He could not refrain from gloomy mis-
For what if they were to give way ? In
what position should he then be placed ?
Torturins^ visions of creased socks, shortened
trousers, and white legs, rose to his mind
and thrilled it with unutterable dismay.
But he was fairly started now, and of all
his retainers, old Matthews had been the
only one to administer a crumb of comfort.
Bob, as already related, desired to ride
Kingfisher, but Kingfisher's wounds were
not yet healed, and Matthews had recom-
mended a fine, upstanding bay in his place,
named The Swell.
" Is he a good 'an?" asked Bob with
" Yes, sir, a ripper, particularly at timber.
126 A CRACK COUNTY.
You can ride him with confidence. He has
but one fault."
" Any objection to stating it,
Matthews ? "
" No, sir, not in the least. He won't
" Oh ! won't he. The beggar ! Not even
if he is made to ? "
" Not even if he is made to," responded
Matthews gravely. "The man who rode
him last was not one to put up with any
denial. 'Owever, we have so few brooks in
these parts that The Swell's little peequli-
arity don't so much signify."
So Bob mounted his hunter and rode
He was accustomed to horse exercise,
and had constantly been in the liabit of
galloping from one end of his farm to
the other, but he was not accustomed to
the easy paces and springy action of the
animal he now for the first time bestrode.
LONGING FOE A HIDE. 127
In ten minutes lie had forgotten all about
the vexations with which his day had begun.
As he entered a grass field, and let The
Swell stride along over the ridge and furrow,
he thought that in his whole life he had
never experienced a more perfect and
He had decided to ride his hunter out to
covert, the meet being within a couple of
miles of Straightem Court. But short as
was the distance, it proved sufficient to
put him on good terms with The Swell,
and inspire him with confidence in his
As he trotted down along, straggly street,
bordered on either side by small shops and
unevenly built cottages, which went by the
name of Morton village (the fixture for the
day), and watched the women and children
clustering round the doorways, a smile
spread slowly over his countenance.
Everything was new to him ; everything
128 A CEACK COUNTY.
a source of interest, \voii(lerment or amuse-
Unconscious of the fiat ^Yllich had gone
forth against him in the names of Lord
Littelbrane and General Prosieboy, he
looked forward with keen delii^ht to his
introduction to an English field and to a
pack of well-bred, well-trained English
Every nerve in his body was quivering
with suppressed excitement.
It seemed to him that surely this would
prove a red-letter day in his life, ever
to be looked back upon with gratifying
Poor, foolish young man ! He had yet
to learn that no pleasure equals the pleasure
of anticipation — that joyous picturing of
the imagination, which stern reality strips
of its fancies, just as approaching winter
strips the pretty many-coloured hedge-
WELCOMING THE STRANGER.
Of the natural stiffness of county gentle-
men, tlieir reserve towards strangers, their
curious reluctance to make fresh acquaint-
ances, their distrust of every one who is
not at least the friend of a friend, a scion
of the aristocracy, or furnished with un-
deniable credentials Bob knew absolutely
nothing. Cliques and coteries were to him
empty, meaningless words.
Where he came from, such nice distinc-
tions had not yet been introduced.
He had a kind of an idea that people
who went out hunting were all " hail
fellow, well met " ; the sport united them in
bonds of sympathy an 1 companionship ;
the farmer was as gool as the lord, the
TOL I. 9
IHO A CRACK COUNTY.
tradesman as the farmer. At least, such
were Bob's notions.
They showed how i;]^norant he was, and
how extremely little he knew of the Morbey
Anstead Hunt. Democratic views were
sternly suppressed by that self-approving
body of gentlemen known as the Mutual
When Bob reached the end of the villac^e,
he found the cottai]^es widened out on either
side in order to inclose a small trianixular-
shaped comxmon of about two acres in
extent. Here, of a summer's evening, the
lads assembled in great force, pitched their
wickets and enjoyed a good game of cricket.
Just now, the point of attraction proved
to be a neat little whitewashed inn, over
whose door huncf a lar^e and brilliantlv
painted signpost. Its 3'ard was full of
horses standing champing at their bits,
or stamping restlessly as the groom in
attendance tightened up the girths, pre-
WELCOMIXG THE STRANGER. 131
paratory to the mounting of liis master or
mistress. The hounds had already arrived
and were congregated on the grass, some
rolling, some plajdng, some placidly waving
their fine-pointed sterns to and fro.
Burnett stood in their midst, mounted
on a powerful, blood-like brown gelding,
whilst the first whip occasionally made the
lash of his hunting crop crack with a
resounding noise, when an inquisitive
hound, more excitable and less obedient
than his comrades, ventured outside the
The old ones, who knew w^hat they had
come out for, were mostly sensible enough,
but now and again, a youthful member of
the establishment, possessing an active
canine mind, would exhibit a propensity
to make acquaintance with horses' legs,
or sniff suspiciously at the knots of little
sturdy boys and girls who stood watching
the proceedings, half in fear, half in delight.
132 A CRACK COUNTY.
Then the thonir descended on the
offender's hind quarters, and sent him
yelping back from whence he came,
smarting under a sense of injury. Bob
pulled up his horse, and watched these
and similar incidents with keen interest.
Nothing escaped him. He noticed the
sleekness of the hounds' coats, and what
an admirably matched lot they were. He
looked down into the depths of their honest,
wistful eyes, that appeared now yellow, now
brown, now luminously red, according to
how the sunlight fell upon them.
Mongrels he had seen by the score ; but
never such hounds as these. It was a
delight to watch them ; each movement
betrayed high pedigree. One sedate and
curiously marked fellow particularly took
his fancy. He was a very light hound,
almost white, save for a few patches of tan,
and he lay on the grass, as if determined
not to distress himself until necessarv, with
WELCOAlINu THE STRANGER. 133
Lis noble head reposing contentedly on out-
stretched paws, stained to a dark hue by
the muddy roads along which he had
" Is that a good hound ? " asked Bob of
one of the whips.
" The best killer in the pack, sir. He
comes from Lord Lonsdale."
And now people began to arrive from
every quarter. The little common was
dotted over with red coats, thrown up by a
sprinkling of black. The sun shone out and
made the brass buttons twinkle like miniature
stars ; it cast a sheen on the horses' smooth
coals, brinoino their stron?^ muscles into
high relief, and lighting up the whole stir-
ring and varied scene with its clear, genial
rays. Overhead was a soft blue sky, across
whose broad expanse of tender azure floated
a few gossamer clouds, misty and white,
their snowy purity contrasting vividly with
the distant ether.
134 A CRACK COUNTY.
Bob — who was naturally observant —
thought that, taking? it altoi]^ether, he had
never looked upon so goodl}^ a sight.
He no longer wondered at the pride and
enthusiasm Englishmen displayed when
talking of fox-hunting. He could fully
sympathize with their feelings.
For even as he gazed at the bright array,
a glow of exultation thrilled his veins. In
fact, he was so absorbed by all he now saw
for the first time, that he did not notice a
small group of w^ell mounted, well-appointed
men wdio had drawn near and were
evidently criticizing the new-comer's
Perhaps it was just as well that he
escaped seeing the smiles of mingled
indignation and contempt which disfigured
their countenances, as they stood there
and took stock of their fellow- creature.
Luckily for Bob, it did not enter his
head to imagine that he was furnishing
WELCOMING THE STRANGER. 135
subject of amusement. To tell tlie truth,
he had clean forgotten all about those
unfortunate elastic straps. The excitement
of the moment had chased their memory
Besides, he also was engaged in making
mental observations, and had already
taken a rapid survey of the assembled
Some few elegant sportsmen he marked
down in his mind's tablet as " real swaoff^^er
chaps, regular out-and-out swells."
Needless to say these were the Mutual
Adorationites. Others again appeared to
be good fellows, without an atom of
Yet, curiously enough, Bob's instinctive
desire was to make acquaintance with the
former rather than with the latter class.
Chiefly because these extra-refined indi-
viduals were rarities in his Colonial life,
hitherto seldom met with ; and also
1S6 A CRACK COUMY.
because lie had a notion tLey pofefcCfcised a
certain amount of originality and con-
stituted a type altogether novel in his
experiences. Perhaps, too, some inward
consciousness whispered that they belonged
to an entirely different order — the order to
which, by his uncle's death, he ought now
to aspire. No doubt they could teach him
manners. For manners, above all, were
what humble-minded Bob told himself he
was sadly deficient in. His heart might be
good, his sentiments irreproachable, but
what was the use of that without fine old
British polish? He was determined to
lose no opportunity of acquiring it.
Meantime, Lord Littelbrane gave the
signal for a move to be made, and hounds
were at once trotted off at a brisk pace to
draw Neverblank Covert, whose name was
suggestive of the good sport it invariably
It lay on the slope of a hill, removed
WELCOMING THE STRANGER. 137
from roads and railways, and was situated
in a scantily populated portion of the
county. The strong, healthy gorse of
which it was composed afforded a retreat
dear to the vulpine race ; and dire was the
disappointment if by any chance Never-
blank failed to furnish a fox when called
upon. As a rule, the chief difficulty
consisted in dislodging the quarry ; for
owing to the stoutness of the gorse, it was
by no means an easy covert for hounds to
But to-day they were fresh and eager,
and in their ardour heeded not the stabs
inflicted on their fine skins by the sharp-
pointed prickles. By the end of fixe
minutes no less than three foxes were
viewed stealing across the rides.
" Hoick, my beauties. Hoick, hoick at
'em," called out Burnett encouragingly, in
a mellow, resonant voice that could be
heard from afar.
138 A CRACK COUNTY.
Nevertheless, a considerable delay
occurred, during wliicli our friend Bob was
on the tip-toe of expectation.
Once three or four young hounds
appeared for a few minutes, and gave chase
to a startled hare. Bob immediately joined
in the pursuit, but to his intense dis-
appointment, up rode the first whip and
administered to the offenders such a
punishment that they were only too glad
to effect a retreat, their sense of guilt
w^eighing heavily upon them.
As for Bob, not being a hound, he was
castigated by the human tongue instead of
by the lash. To his consternation, he
suddenly found himself addressed by a
stout, white-haired, red faced, choleric-
lookincT old ixcntleman, who at that
moment bore a curious resemblance to an
infuriated turkey-cock, thanks to the
wobbling muscles of his purple throat.
" God d n it, sir ! Where the devil
WELCOMING THE STEANGEK. 139
are you going to ? " he roared out at the
top of his voice, glaring fiercely at Bob
with his small glittering eyes.
" I thought we were going to have
a run," answered the young man
" The deuce you did, and pray," blankety
blankety, blank — the reader's ear must not
be offended by too faithful a repetition of
the general's language — " what the dickens
do you mean by encouraging Lord
Littelbrane's hounds to run riot ? Eh !
answer me that question." And once
more his flabby, pendulous throat became
" I didn't intend to do anything wrong
or against the rules," said Bob meekly.
"But I fancied we were off."
"05* I indeed. You seem to possess a
lively fancy, sir ; rather too lively when
combined with so very^' he laid a sneering
emphasis on the word, " small knowledge
HO A cj:ack county.
of hunting. But youVe made a mistake,
let me tell you. The Morbey Anstead
don't go in for teaching beginners how to
hunt. You had far better try some other
pack, for we,' — oh ! the importance, the
majesty and superiority contained in that
word — " expect people to behave them-
selves when they come out with us."
This speech angered Bob not a little ;
still with an effort he stifled his wrath. He
had no wish to enter into a quarrel, but more
especially did he dislike squabbling with
a man so many years his senior. He deter-
mined to try the effect of a soft answer.
" I beg pardon," he said quietly but
firmly. " I had no idea that I had com-
mitted so gross a breach of etiquette as,
according to you, I unfortunately appear
to have done."
But General Prosieboy was not one to
be easily appeased. After the conversation
which had taken place between himself and
WELCOMINa THE STRANGER. 141
Lord Littelbrane lie felt as if liis pprsonal
honour were at stake, and that he was
bound, not only as a gentleman, but also
as a M.A., to crush Bob down to the very
ground. If his opponent had flown into a
temper he would have been more at ease.
The young man's humble, yet at the same
time manly, manner was just a trifle
disconcerting. He must not let his rage
" Damnation, sir," he retorted irately.
" You had no idea, indeed ! Pray what
excuse is that ? None, none whatever. It
cannot be permitted that you should ruin
our hounds and spoil our day's sport.
People have no right to come out hunting
with a pack like the Morbey Anstead when
they don't even know the difference between
a fox and a hare."
Bob reddened. The speaker's manner
was so intentionally offensive that he
realized at last that this foul-tongued old
142 A CRACK COUNTY.
gentleman was deliberately setting to work
to insult liim. He was a liigli-spirited 3'oung
fellow, and having once arrived at this
conclusion, no longer made any efTort to
conceal his indignation.
•'Will you be good enough to tell me
who you are and what your name is ? " he
inquired with considerable heat.
Blankety— blank. " What's that to you ?"
replied the general.
" A great deal. I wish to know if you
are authorized to keep the Field in order,
and for what purpose you disgrace yourself
by usinc: bad lan^-uaize."
" Damn it, sir. Do you mean to tell me
that you question my authority and wish
to know my name ? "
" You have guessed my desire correcth'."
*' By gad ! sir, I'm not ashamed of it,"
returned the other excitedly. " It's Trosie-
bo}^ General Frosieboy."
" A very applicable name, no doubt,"
WELCOMINa THE SrilAXGER. U3
said Bob, with a sarcasm he could not re-
" And as for my authority," continued
the general, treating this remark with the
contempt it deserved, and inflating himself
like a balloon filled full of pride instead of
gas, " you need be under no apprehension
about that. I am Lord Littelbrane's most
intimate friend, and every action of mine
invariably meets with his concurrence."
On such an occasion, when he was
fighting the battles of the whole sacred
body of Mutual Adorationites, General
Prosieboy's conscience told him. that it was
a gallant and virtuous thing to draw the
long bow. The young man had to be sup-
pressed and squashed. At present he
showed no sii]fns of submission.
"I presume tlien," said Bob, with a
twinkle in his eye, for General Prosieboy's
grandiose manner had an irresistibly comic
effect upon him, " that his lordship is by
144 A CRACK COUNTY.
no means particular with whom he asso-
ciates and has not an easily ofiended ear."
And so saying Bob galloped off at full
speed, for a loud " gane forrard awa-ay "
rang through the air, repeating itself in
many sounding echoes. This time the fox
really took to his heels, and he, Bob, had
not a moment to lose.
General Prosieboy stood for a second
and looked after him. Then he shook his
" He ought to be settled — he ought to be
settled," he- muttered three or four times
over in tones full of anxiety and dissatis-
faction. " And yet " with an oath,
" I'm not sure that he is. Mr. Eobert P.
Jarrett is just about as tough a customer
as I've come across for a lon^ time. How-
ever, if he feels inclined to show fight I'll
have another shy at him by-andbye."
Whereupon he clapped spurs to his horse
and rode off for the nearest road.
CUTTING THEM ALL DOWN.
" Well I'm blowed," said Bob to liimself,
as The Swell glided over the pastures with
his long, smooth stride. " That old cove's
boots and breeches were perfection, and yet
I wonder if he is a specimen of the sport-
ing gentleman. If so, they must be an
uncommonly queer lot."
But General Prosieboy soon vanished
from his thoughts, for the hounds were
straight ahead, running hard and mute,
whilst the Field were already split up into
half-a-dozen different divisions. The Swell,
too, was pulling like one not accustomed
to the indignity of seeing many of his own
species in advance of him. Bob let him go,
vol. I. 10
143 A CRACK COUNTY.
heiuix also anxious to ^et to the front as
quickly as possible.
Altlion£(h, thanks to his recent encoun-
ter, he had not been particularly fortunate
in securing a start, he soon made the
pleasing discovery that, owing to the extra-
ordinary speed of his horse, he was only
cantering when others were galloping, and
before very long he succeeded in joining
the leading horsemen.
This 230sition contented him, and he
resolved if possible to maintain it. As
before stated, he was accustomed to riding,
and what he wanted in judgment he made
up in " pluck " and dash. Although The
Swell missed the delicate handlini]^ — the
artistic lenc^tlicninc^ and shorteninc: of the
reins to which he had grown accustomed
when carrying his late master — he quickly
ascertained that his present one was not to
be denied. The good hunter's desire was
to be where he could see the hounds. liob*s
CUTTING THEM ALL DOWN. 147
wishes were identical, and as he had the
sense to leave The Swell pretty well alone
at his fences, they got on better than might
have been expected.
They had already flown some six or
seven obstacles and had established a
friendly communication. Bob's spirits rose
almost to the ecstatic pitch. His heart
beat fast. Through his veins ran a warm
glow that pervaded his whole frame and
rendered him, for the time being, insen-
sible to danger. Up to this point the
fencing had been comparatively easy. But
now they came to a narrow gap, blocked
entirely by a huge fallen tree.
The leaders pulled up and looked at it
dubiously. Somebody even suggested
dismounting and trying to force the
stubborn branch3s aside. Bob laughed in
his sleeve. This was the species of jump
with which he was most familiarized. That
bare, brown trunk, with its spreadhig
148 A CRACK COUNTY.
stems shooting between four and five feet
in the air, had no terrors for him.
He gave The Swell a touch of the spurs.
No, to be correct, it was more than a touch.
He intended the application to be of the
gentlest possible nature, but somehow the
rowels remained fixed in the animal's sides
and the next moment they were over,
though not without a scramble.
Still, he had shown these hard-riding
Morbey Anstead gentlemen that the thing
was possible to jump, and before many
seconds had gone by he was joined by
Burnett. At length, after the branches
had been considerably beaten down, several
other Nimrods hardened their hearts, whilst
the timid went off in search of a gate.
Lord Littelbrane was one of those who
had viewed Bob's performance.
" He's a deuce of a fellow to ride, that
nephew of Straightem's," he observed to
General Broi^iebov, as the road division
CUTTING THEM ALL DOWN. U9
joined them. " A deuce of a fellow, thougli
he knows nothing whatever about it."
•' I'll tell you what he can do as well,"
said the general with venomous animation.
" What's that ? " inquired his lordship
" Talk. He'd talk a dog's hind leg
off. Take my advice, my lord, and don't
give him the chance of getting in a
'^ I don't mean to."
" That's right. I had a tussle with
him this morning, and he's simply im-
possible. Much more so even than I
" Did you give it to him, Squasher ? "
" I did," responded the general grimly.
*^ But he's not had enough yet. He is one
of those gentlemen who require a second
" One is enough as a rule, is it not ? "
said his lordship, with a faint smile.
ino A CRACK COUNTY.
" It is, but I shall take care to make
number two a very great many degrees
Meanwhile, Bob was superlatively happy.
Every j^ard that the fox continued running
he became increasingly alive to the merits
of the animal he bestrode. No wonder,
then, he was pleased, for it takes such a
combination of qualities to make a good
hunter. A sin^^le one <]foes for so little. The
fencing is of no use without the speed, or
the speed without the staying, and even
then, bad manners will often destroy
the whole. In short, a horse who pos-
sesses every desideratum is almost as
hard to find as a pretty woman destitute
of vanity, or an ugl}- one who is not
Fence after fence The Swell threw behind
him without a mistake. There are few
sensations more delii^htful than beariuor
down on a good Lio- i lace, fn-dinir vour
CUTTING THEM ALL DOWN. 151
horse come at it exactly in his stride, and
feehng b}^ intuition before he takes off that
you are safe to get over well.
Tlie Swell was fresh and in an extra
good humour. So far, nothing had
occurred to put him out. The ditches
were dry and no gleam of obaoxious water
offended his eye. Bob's confidence increased
Thirty glorious minutes — minutes full of
concentrated enjoyment — had elapsed since
the fox broke covert. But the pace had
burst him, and he now held out signals of
distress. Burnett's sharp eyes spied him
stealing wearil}^ down a hedge-row, carry-
ing his brush low and his head outstretched,
yet with every faculty intent on making
But how to get into the same field ?
The fence that surrounded it was abso-
lutely unjumpable. It consisted of a huge
bullfinch, black as Erebus, some eight or
152 .A CBACK COUNTY.
ten feet in height and hordered on either
side by a stiff ox raiL
The boldest Kimrod present recognized
that it would be sheer lunacy to attempt
such a leap. There was but one means of
ingress, namely, through a five-barred gate,
but this proved to be securely chained and
padlocked. With the smallest possible
delay a couple of horsemen dismounted and
endeavoured to take the gate off its hinges.
No, it would not yield an inch. The
assembled group were done. They stood
looking at the timber barrier in dismay,
whilst hounds burst into a bloodthirsty
chorus and raced across the green sward.
Burnett cursed the fate that had mounted
him on a horse bad at rails. He hesitated
and his companions hesitated too. Even
in the far-famed Shires, a five-barred gate
is a thing not often jumped, but it is done
sometimes, and generally either by a well-
known bruiser or else by a complete
CUTTING THEM ALL DOWN. 153
novice There was one novice present
who felt desperate, and who moreover was
in a state of such intense physical ecstasy
as rendered him impervious to fear.
" Make way," he called out excitedly.
And then he rode resolutely at the gate.
For a brief second, The Swell did not
seem altogether certain whether his rider
were in earnest. The next, reassured by
that subtle electric current which surely
exists between man and horse and speech-
lessly communicates to each, the other's
intention, he cocked his small ears and
gathered himself well together.
Then with a powerful twist of his hind
quarters, he flung over the gate, just tap-
ping it lightly with one hoof, and landed
safely on the other side. It was both high
and stiff, and Bob, conscious of the difficulty
of the jump, cast a hasty backward glance
to see who intended following in his wake.
But nobody showed any disposition to
l."t A CEACK COUNTY.
emulate his example, especially as the lead-
ing hounds were already beginning to
Lord Littelbrane watched Bob's per-
formance in silence. If there was one
thing he respected more than another it
was courage ; perhaps because he sus-
pected a deficiency of that quality in his
own nature, althouoh nothing would have
induced him to admit the fact. Somethini^
very like a tear gathered in his dull blue
He turned away, and as he did so, almost
came into collision with General Prosieboy.
" Prosieboy," he said mournfully, " I
have never felt the loss of poor, dear Harry
so much as at this moment. We have
nobodv left to ride for us now."
" Why, my lord ! What's the matter ? "
"The matter!" he replied in tones of
indescribable miserv. " That terrible
person " — a shudder went through his
CUTTING THEM ALL DOWN. 155
delicate frame — " that nephew of Harry's,
has just jumped a five-barred gate and cut
us all down."
" The devil he has ! Well, I'm not sur-
prised to hear it. He's mad enough for
" Yes, but not another man dared follow.
Even Burnett turned away."
" And quite right, too," said General
Prosieboy, who was by no means an
advocate of riskincf one's neck throuMi the
taking of hazardous leaps.
" It's a shameful thing to let this Colonial
fellow take the shine out of all our best
men," returned Lord Littelbrane. Then,
with an unwonted burst of emotion, he
added : " Oil ! Harry, Harry, dear old man;
this would never have happened had you
still been in the land of the living. The
glory of the Morbey Anstead has departed."
After clearin<]f the five- barred crsitc as
related, Bob experienced a few moments of
156 A CEACK COUNTY.
triumphant elation ; lie leant forward and
patted The Swell's bright, slender bay-
neck. But before many minutes his elation
changed to dismay.
First, he was a little disconcerted at
finding himself entirely alone. Second, he
was not altogether certain how to proceed,
and third, he perceived that the hounds
had turned sharp back. The last circum-
stance was the m.ost annoying of the three.
For, as there was but one way into the
field, so was there but one way out, and
that the same.
Now it is one thinir to charf]^e a
danfTerous obstacle when the fury of the
chase is upon you, when your blood is
heated to ahnost fever pitch, and dozens
of critical eyes are watching your per-
formance , but it is a verv different affair
having to retrace your footsteps in solitude,
perhaps doubting the wisdom of your
action in the first instance. It is astonish-
CUITING THEM ALL DOWN. 157
ing under such circumstances liow much
bigger the original leap looks.
As so often happens out hunting, it
proved a case of the timid finding them-
selves better off than the brave. The
former were now in the same field with
Bob alone was separated from them.
He glanced at the gate. There was no
other possible mode of joining his com-
panions. It looked horribly big, and to
make matters worse, the take-off was now
slightly up-hill, and indented by hoof-
marks of cattle. He saw that he must
not give himself time to think. If the
thing were to be done at all, it must be
done at once.
But perhaps what decided him was the
sight of the noble master and his choleric
old friend staring at him from their point of
vantage with evident amusement.
He resolved to fall rather than let him-
158 A CKACK COUNTY.
self be laughed at by tliem, and sure
enough, fall he did. The Swell made a
gallaut elTort, but he tripped over some
uneven ground just as he took off, and
hitting the gate hard with both fore-legs,
turned a complete somersault. Bob was a
little shaken, but not really hurt, and soon
recovered from the shock. lie did not
mind the disaster one bit ; but what did
get his monkey up, was seeing those two
stuck-up, stand-oif men close by never offer
to i>ive liim the least assistance. He
thought it downright ungentlemanly of
them, and felt their conduct very keenly ;
especially as he overheard General Prosie-
boy say scoffmgly :
" Ha, ha ! Tried to show of! once too
often. Glad he found out his mistake."
The other nodded his colourless head,
and then they rode away together.
But if the Mutual Adorationites were
not kind, others were.
CUTTING them: ALL DOWN. 159
A jolly, good-natured farmer immediately
rushed to the rescue, saying admiringly :
" Gad, sir ! But that was a gallant
jump of yours, and a real nasty one into
the bargain ; I hope you are none the
worse for the roll ? ''
" Not in the least, thank you," said Bob,
beginning to recover from the annoyance
occasioned by Lord Littelbrane's and
General Prosieboy's conduct. " And for-
tunately the horse is not injured either.
At least, as far as I can judge."
" Ah ! That's lucky, for he's a good 'un.
Many's the time I have seen the late
Captain Straightem ride him to hounds."
" By-the-by," said Bob, '•' perhaps you
can tell me who that small, fair-haired,
drab faced man is, speaking to General
The farmer looked in the direction indi-
" That ! " he said, as if astonished at his
160 A CRACK COUNTY.
companion's ignorance. " Oh ! that is Lord
" I thought so, responded Bob. " What
sort of a fellow is he ? "
" That's rayther a difficult question for
me to answer, sir, seeing as how I am one
of his lordship's principal tenants."
But Bob had already discovered what he
wanted to know from the man's manner.
" Never mind," he said ; " I understand.
If a question is difficult to answer, nine
times out of ten it answers itself."
" You're uncommon sharp, sir," said his
"Think so?" said Bob. "Not sharp
enough, I am afraid, to pick up good
manners from your English gentleman."
With which enio^matical remark, beimi
now fairly mounted, he rode olT to rejoin
the hounds, who were already a couple of
GENERAL PROSIEBOY COMES TO THE FRONT.
Bob urged The Swell to his speed and soon
overtook the pack. He reached them in
the nick of time, for this good, bold fox,
finding himself sorely pressed, after dodging
round some farm premises to regain his
lost wind, once more faced the open, in
hopes of gaining Amberside Hill, some two
or three miles further on.
The gallant fellow put on a desperate
spurt. He knew it was the last of which
he was capable. The country was strong
and thickly fenced. For another ten
minutes the fun continued fast and furious.
As if anxious to wipe out the indignity
of a fall. The Swell jumped brilliantly, and
completely re-established the high opinion
VOL. I. 11
162 A CRACK COUNTY.
he had hitherto held in the estimation of
his rider. Such glorious excitement soon
made I>ob for£Tet his resentment a^^ainst
Lord Littelbrane and General Prosieboy.
He felt on good terms with all mankind,
himself and his horse in particular.
For the hounds were in full cry now,
pursuing the failing quarry with wide-open
jaws, red hanging tongues, gleaming eyes,
and upright bristles. Onl}- one more field
separated poor Pug from Amberside Hill.
His foes were bent on pulling him down
before he reached it. He was equally deter-
mined to baffle them. It meant life to him —
only a mouthful of unsavoury food to them.
But though he toiled on gamely, he was
now in full view, and the baying of the
hounds and the yelling of his human
enemies served still further to terrify and
dishearten him. He just managed to creep
through the last fence dividinc^ the road
from Amberside Hill, and lay down panting
GENERAL PKOSIEBOY COMES TO THE FRONT. 163
in the ditch, where, hidden by dead brown
leaves and yellow edisli, his body was
almost undiscernible. If by this ruse he
could but gain a few moments, then he
might steal into the covert and seek the
shelter of a friendly earth. His calcula-
tions proved correct, for one by one the
eager hounds flashed over him and disap-
peared in the wood beyond.
Excited by the prospect of a near finish
to so good a run, every horseman was on
his mettle. They did not heed the stiff
top-binder that ran through the fence, but
charged it in a dozen different places.
Crash ! crash ! and two sportsmen bit
the dust simultaneously, rolling into the
road more forcibly than pleasantly.
Bob got over all right, and hearing the
noise of falling bodies, turned to see who
the unfortunates were. To his surprise, he
perceived that the one nearest to him was
no less a personage than General Prosieboy,
164 A CRACK COUNTY,
who inspired by the universal enthusiasm, had
for once ventured on so formidable a leap.
He was a stout man and a heavy, and he
did not fall easily. Few people do when
they weigh over fifteen stone and have
passed sixty years of age. For several
seconds he lay immovable. Perhaps he
was more frightened than hurt, but anyhow
the sight of his white hairs mingling with
the dust filled Bob with a sentiment of
" Good for evil," he said to himself ; and
in another minute he was olT his horse and
liftino; the <][eneral from the oTound. He
wiped him clean, caught his hunter, and
finally — when he had ascertained that no
great damage had been inflicted — helped
him to remount.
All this time General Prosieboy spoke
not a word. He accepted the attentions
bestowed as if they were his due. At last
he gathered up his reins and prepared to
GENEKAL PEOSIEBOY COMES TO THE FRONT. 165
move on. At that moment, Bob, seized by
a sudden desire for reconciliation, and also
prompted by his good-natured Australian
hospitality, looked up at the great M.A.
with a pair of honest, pleading brown eyes,
and said :
" Hullo ! old chap. Don't you think you
and I might just as well be friends ? "
To do the general justice, taken by
surprise, for one single moment he relented.
Perhaps Bob saw the softened expression
of his face, for he continued, in tones of
greater confidence : " I'm all alone, and
deuced dull I find it. We have not been
formally introduced to each other, but what
do you say to coming and taking ' pot luck '
with me this evening at Straightem Court ?
Eh?" And as he spoke, he settled one of
the general's gouty old feet in the stirrup.
But that gentleman, ashamed of his
momentary weakness, and indignant with
himself for having experienced it, recovered
166 A CRACK COUKTY.
from any temporary feeling of softness.
He now con.sidere(l it incumbent upon him
to be doubly severe and repulsive in order
to atone for the lapse of dignity, which
owing to peculiar conditions, had unfortu-
nately already taken place. He must not
let the enemy see that there was any joint
in his armour.
Consequently he drew himself up in his
saddle, protruded his chest, and fixing his
cold, gimlet-like eye on the audacious
Bob, said in a solemnly frigid voice, as
if his feelings were outraged beyond de-
" Young man, I make a point of 72ever
dining with persons whose acquaintance I
have not had the pleasure of making in a
proper and orthodox manner. The fact is,
there are so many outsiders come to hunt
with these hounds that it is impossible to
be too particular. Under these circum-
stances I must decline the honour of taking
GENERAL PROSIEBOY COMES TO THE EROXT. 167
' pot luck ' with one who is a complete
stranger to me and likely to remain so."
So saying, and without uttering a single
word of thanks for kindness received, he
trotted off to a field close by, into which
poor Eeynard's body had been dragged,
and was there undergoing the final obse-
quies. Despite every shift, his murderers
had found him out.
Bob could only i^aze after the general in
" Darned old fool ! " he exclaimed at last,
with a burst of irrepressible wrath.
And yet there was something comic
about the ancient warrior's behaviour too.
It was so very very small, and displayed so
lamentably narrow a mind. Angry as he
felt at his insolence. Bob could hardly
suppress a smile.
But how about these celebrated English
manners, whose delicacy, refinement, and
true politeness he had so often heard
168 ' A CEACK COU^iTY.
quoted at head-quarters? Were these
Why, out in the bush, if one man be-
haved to another man in so gross and
insolent a fashion, no name would be con-
sidered bad enough for him. But then,
on the other hand, the offer of a good
dinner did not come as often over there
as it did here. Perhaps that fact made all
But reason it out as he might. Bob had
received a tremendous shock. All his pre-
conceived notions had been subjected to
severe disillusion, an operation which
"whenever it takes place always leaves a
feeling of soreness and blankness behind.
He had been so humble and diffident, so
ready to learn of all the Englishmen he
came across, simply because they possessed
the inestimable advantage of bein^ English-
men ; and now he thought that he himself
had more polish than they. He might be
GENERAL PROSIEBOY COXES TO THE FRONT. 16»
rough, blunt, outspoken, but he would
have been ashamed to treat a fellow-
creature as Lord Littelbrane and General
Prosieboy had treated him.
It took him much longer this time to
recover from his disappointment and in-
dignation, and during the process he did
not attempt to speak to a soul ; in fact,
after his experiences of the morning, he
laid it down as a rule, so long as he
remained in England, not to address a
single person until overtures had first been
made to him. He would be on the safe
side, at any rate, and not expose himself to
any more insults and rebuffs. But circum-
stances defeated this intention, and pre-
vented him from putting it into execution.
Whilst jogging on to get to the next
covert, the whole Field had to pass through
a series of nasty little, awkward bridle-
gates, that flew to, almost as soon as they
were opened. Bob, being mortal and a
170 A CRACK COUNTY.
man, had before now noticed a very pretty,
smart-looking, little woman, attired in a
scarlet jacket, a white waistcoat, and a
glossy hat, from beneath which her small
coquettish face peeped out very alluringly.
An incident now took place that shocked
all his sense of chivalry. No less than
three gentlemen in succession pushed by,
and allowed one of these gates to slam
upon this lady, thereby preventing her
from gettinof throuirh and hurtino; her hand
as she stretched it out in self-defence.
The very sight made Bob indignant.
There was somethinc^ so currish and un-
manly about the proceeding to his mind,
especially when there was not even the
excuse of hounds runninix hard. He
darted forward, held the gate open, and
although several other men availed them-
selves of his courtesy, insisted on the lady
passing through before he relaxed his hold.
So natural did this action appear to him.
GENERAL PROSIEBOY COMES TO THE FRONT. 171
that he was quite astonished to find her
waiting for him on the other side.
" Thank you so much," she said in a
clear, cheery voice. " It was awfully good
of you letting me take your turn."
" Please don't mention such a trifle," he
said in reply. " Anybody would have
She shrugged her shoulders, and shot an /
inquiring glance in his direction.
" Are you well acquainted with the
Morbey Anstead ? "
" No, this is the first time I have been
out with them."
Lady De Fochsey — for it was she — smiled,
and leaning confidentially towards Bob, said :
" You are Mr, Jarrett, are you not. Cap-
tain Straightem's nephew ? "
" Yes, how did you know ? "
" Never mind, perhaps I guessed. Tell
me, are the ladies in your part of the
world better treated than tliey are here ? "
172 A CRACK COUNTY.
" From what I have seen in your case, I
should say, most certainly," said Bob em-
"Ah ! don't waste your indignation.
The Morbey Anstead females do not expect
to be made a fuss with ; if they are tole-
rated it is all they can hope for. You see
the men think such a tremendous lot of
themselves, that it is impossible for them
to think much of anybody else."
" So it appears," said Bob grimly. " You
have hit it off exactly."
" Do you know," and she cast a side-long
glance at him, " the highest compliment I
have ever received from an M.A. was to be
told, I was not in the way. Don't you
think a woman ought to feel immensely
flattered by such a speech? Ilowever well
she may ride, however pretty she may be to
look at, and nice to talk to, her highest
reward is ' not in the way.' " And her
ladyship burst into a little sarcastic laugh.
GENERAL PROSIEBOY COMES TO THE FRONT. 173
"Do you mean to tell me that such a
saying is meant for praise ? " asked Bob.
" Yes," she answered demurely, " from a
Mutual Adorationite : very high praise."
" I don't quite understand the phrase ;
what does ' Mutual Adorationite ' mean ? "
" I won't explain, because it would take
too long, and you so soon will find out for
yourself. But to return to our sex. When
gates out hunting are small, gentlemen in a
hurry, ladies numerous, the latter go to the
wall. They always do, all through life, for
the simple reason that of all animals, man
is the most animal, and the most selfish,
woman the weakest, and the least
" I am sorry you should think so badly
of us," said Bob.
"I do not think badly of you,'' she
replied, letting her limpid blue eyes rest
full upon him. " You exerted your
strength in my behalf."
174 A CEACK COUJsTY.
To her surprise he made no immediate
answer. To tell the truth, lie was a little
taken aback. Being flattered by a pretty
woman was a novel experience.
" What are vou thinkiniTf about ? " she
inquired a trifle pettishly. " You seem as
if you had not heard what I said."
" You must excuse my apparent inatten-
tion, Miss " and Bob stopped short, for
he had not an idea whether his companion,
were wife, wudow, or maid.
She laughed outritrht.
" Xo, I am not a Miss, tliough you
evidently seem to think that I ought to be
one. My name is Lady de Fochsey.'' Then
she looked at Bob, and told herself he was
very w^ ell- favoured, and added softl}-,
" widow of the late Sir Jonathan."
There could be no harm in letting him
know that she was free to wed again, if so
Besides, she liked young men. Old
GENERAL PEOSIEBOY COMES TO THE FRONT. 175
ones were so dreadfully prosy, and
always luould talk of themselves. There
was a manly strength about Bob, combined
with an honesty and good-huraour of
countenance, which she altogether approved
of, even although his clothes were not
exactly what they might be. But being
a woman and he a man, she was inclined to
regard this defect leniently, whereas if Bob
had belonged to the same sex as herself,
every article of costume would have been
severely criticized. But ladies are nearly
always kinder to gentlemen than to other
ladies, and vice-versd.
"Thv3 fact is," said Bob explanatorily,
" whilst you were speaking, I was guilty of
the rudeness of making comparisons
between your country and mine."
" May I ask with what result ? "
" Certainly. I came to the conclusion
that our men would go simply wild over a
pretty woman," Lady De Fochsey smiled
176 A CRACK COUNTY.
encouragingly, and Bob, surprised at his
own hardihood, added, " like yourself, for
instance. Whilst over here, from all
accounts, she is not half appreciated at her
" Oh, yes ! " she said, with a twinkle in
her eye. "We are appreciated after a
eertain brutal fashion, but not in the
chivalrous, Homeric way, of which you
seem a regular champion."
" Chivalrous ! Homeric ! " echoed Bob,
a trifle puzzled. " I'm afraid I'm rather
dull of comprehension.'*
" Very. Let me put my meaning
clearer. Well, then, in Merry England,
the pattern of philanthrophy and civiliza-
tion, we are regarded in one of two lights.
Either we are pretty creatures, fatted and
kept sleek at our lord's pleasure, or else we
are beasts of burden, who have to do all
the hard work, and get none of the credit ;
who screw and save at home, whilst
GENERAL PKOSIEBOY COMES TO THE FRONT. 177
monsieur mon mari cuts a figure in the
world, and spends all the money on
amusing himself. " Oh, yes ! I know."
And she pouted her full lips in a
"No one could associate you with the
beast of burden," said Bob, growing bolder
as her ladyship became more gracious.
She laughed airily and changed the
" Come," she said, giving her horse a
touch of her heel, " tliose tiresome hounds
are nearly out of sight. We must be
Whereupon they put their respective
steeds into a canter, but Lady De Fochsey's
chestnut was completely outpaced by The
Swell, and further conversation was there-
fore carried on under difficulties. Just
then her ladyship spied Lord Littelbrane a
little way ahead.
" Good-bye, for the present," she called
VOL I. 12
178 A CRACK COU>'TY.
out, " come and sse me soon. Any one
will tell you where I live. Your aboriginal
ideas are as interesting to me as, it is to be
hoped, my English ones are to you."' And
she waved the tip of her fingers.
Whereupon Bob rode on, considering he
had had his dismissal, and consoling himself
by thinking it really did not so much matter
what the men were like, when the ladies
were so very, very charming, and so entirely
free from all stiirness and ceremon3^
As for calling, of course he should call,
and only too thankful for the chance.
She was undeniably pretty, although
after the first flutter of excitement had
passed, he told himself that, in spite of her
ladyship's charms, she was not altogether
She wanted something. He was not quite
sure what ; but he fancied it was soul.
It was very pleasant, having agreeable
things said to one, but then the pleasant-
GENERAL PR03IEB0Y COMES TO THE FRONT. 179
ness was in some degree diminislied if you
were not quite certain of the speaker's
sincerity, and could imagine her making the
same pretty little speeches to every man of
her acquaintance. After the reception he
had met with, it was extremely ungrateful
of Bob to harbour such ideas, yet they
occurred to his mind almost involuntarily.
Some inward voice seemed to warn him,
that however much he might be captivated
by Lady De Fochsey, he should never find
in her the ideal woman, with whom some
day he hoped to pass his life in perfect
sympathy and community of spirit.
All the same, he was flattered by the
notice she had taken of him. Besides, she
was the first person, excepting Farmer
Jackson, who had spoken to him in a frank
and friendly fashion. She had lifted the
sense of isolation that had gradually
stolen over his spirit, and he felt more able
now to put up with sneers and insults.
A CHARMING WOMAN.
Lady De Fochsey had many admirers.
Amongst their number it was not often she
encountered one who had the keen insii^ht
to look beyond a pretty, superficial surface
and seek to gauge the depths or shallows
of her real character.
Hers was not an uncommon type of
womanhood. A type that fluctuates
between the good and the bad, and is con-
tinually being attracted and repulsed first
by one, then the other. Stability is difficult
to arrive at under such circumstances, and
scarcely to be looked for. "Without will-
]M)U'er, that much talked of thing, the
human soul is but a poor vapid affair.
A CHARING W0MAN1 J 181
Lady de Foclisey was frivolous, and yet
not conscious of her frivolity ; artificial to
a degree, but not purposely or intentionally
SD. Her nature was light, facile, variable,
and, unfortunately for herself, it possessed
certain dramatic instincts, which all through
life made her seek for and delight in
" situations." As an actress she might
have made a reputation, since as a woman
she never could, refrain from actinij^. She
meant no harm by it. It was only imagin-
ing the worldj a stage and she the player.
Occasionally some of her parts fitted in
very well. They did produce an effect.
At other times thay failed, and then of
course the player was abused and called a
" humbug," if not worse.
And yet, in the real sense of the word,
Lady de Foclisey was not a humbug.
She was true to the instincts implanted
within her. That they were changeable,
capricious, ever striving after sensation,
182 A CEACK COU^"TY.
was perhaps more her misfortune than her
fault. It is not given to all women to be
strong and simple, to see the follies of their
sex, and as much as possible stand aloof
from them. There must be butterflies, even
if their pretty wings are frail and liable to
be smirched and stained.
Lady de Fochsey's conversation was
bright and by the majority all the more
appreciated from the fact of its containing
no depth whatever. With her pretty face
and neat figure, few ever noticed if she
floundered a bit whenever the more serious
topics of the day were mentioned, or got
hopelessly muddled if by any chance
the sciences and ologics were touched
What did it matter ? Women were
made to be amusing, not clever. Nobody
wanted them to be cleverer than the men
— it was only upsetting the long-established
order of things, which worked so satis-
A CIL\.RMING WOMAN. 183
factorily for the male portion of crea-
tion. It is so easy to starve another per-
son's intellect and then say, " You are a
fool," and so hard for the person thus
treated to disprove the assertion. Many
women now-a-days want a chance given
them — a chance of enlarging their educa-
tion and proving the real grit of which
they are made. Lady De Fochsey had no
such ambition. She would rather lead up to
an emotional situation with a man, very
human, very weak, and if a little erring so
much the better, than aspire to the highest
knowledge. She liked experimentalizing
and finding: out what chords and combina-
tions could be wrum? from the masculine
About the female one she troubled her-
self very little, except in her own individual
She considered that her duty in the world
was to smile graciously, make full use of
184 A CEACK COU^"TY.
her china-blue eyes, pay little insincere
compliments and by so doing get herself
talked about as " a charming woman."
This duty she fulfilled admirably, though
it must be admitted she possessed more
allies amongst the men than amongst the
Taken as a general rule, the hunting-
field is not a sphere calculated to develop
the exchange of many intellectual ideas.
When pursuing the fox, her ladyship was
in her element.
To have a train of young men, no matter
how vapid they might be, always dangling
about her habit- skirt, rendered her su-
premely happy. The more the happier.
It was a delight to count them up ; a real
grief to find that one had escaped from his
allegiance. She called them her " tame
cats," and was perpetually getting up pretty
little scenes with them, that would have
been an ornament to any private theatricals.
A CHARMING WO:\IAN. 185
Act the first was invariably : " Charming
woman — love at first siu^ht." Act the
second — " Quarrel. Charming woman
misunderstood." Act the third — " Grand
reconciliation. Charming^ woman more
charming than ever." Sometimes, however,
but never when she could help it, there
was a fourth act — " Break away of cap-
tive, charming woman in despair — con-
founded at hearino: herself abused."
It is astonishing how many varieties
this little play was capable of. The chief
actor never seemed to tire, but derived
fresh amusement from every rehearsal.
All were fish that came to Lady De Foch-
sey's net. She welcomed Bob as a new
admirer, partly because she was already
prepossessed in his favour by the episode
of the gate, and partly owing to her own
peculiar ideas of true love.
She was always in search of true love,
yet curiously enough had never found it.
1^6 A CKACK COUNTY.
When slie married the late Sir Jonathan,
fat, red and wealthy, twenty years older
than herself, she was persuaded the grande
fassion had come at last. It hadn't.
Two years of matrimony completely did
away with the illusion as far as the baronet
was concerned. Query : — Would she have
entertained it if he had not had twelve
thousand a year ?
When Sir Jonathan died, Lady De Foch-
sey did not weep her eyes out. After a
decent interval — it was scarcely more — she
recovered from her grief.
And now ! behold the beautiful con-
fidence of the female nature. She was so
romantic, so trustful and enthusiastic, that
she firmly believed there was no reason,
because one man had failed to answer her
expectations, why another should do the
She had now been a widow for five
years, was twenty-eight years of age, and
A CHARMINa WOZVIAN. 187
began to feel a trifle disappointed with
herself, for not havino- succeeded in fallins^
She was puzzled why the grande passion
did not arrive. She had done her best to
foster it, by reading all sorts of novels of
the ardent, consuming, soul-too-big-for- the-
body type. If anything could have kindled
the required spark such literature ought to
have proved successful.
It heljDed a little, but only a little, for
the provoking part of it was, that noble
and high-flown as were the theories pro-
pounded, they did not work well when
applied to practical life. There was always
a hitch somewhere.
The Byronic young man with dark pas-
sionate eyes, hollow cheeks and wondrous
magnetic power over all the women with
whom he came in contact — the young man
who cared nothing for material comforts,
who disdained luxury, and did not even
188 A CEACK COUKTY.
care for a good dinner, was not to be found
now-a-days. The type was dying out, and
every year became more scarce. Lady
De Fochsey entertained a species of venera-
tion for it ; but even she could not help
admitting, in her own secret consciousness,
that living on romance and sentiment, and
whimscal, high-flown words, might be an
exceedingly fine thing, yet when put to
the actual proof, it was a still finer thing
after a hard day's hunting, when you
came home tired and wet, to find a nice
warm room, a glowing fire and a recherche
little repast awaiting you.
When she stretched herself out full-
length on a sofa, attired in a captivating
tea gown, and read one of the fashionable
Spiritualistic novels on the mysteries of the
occult world, astral planes, electric forces
and so on, she never could quite determine
in her own mind how much or how little
of an impostor she was.
A CHARMING WOMAN. 189
For slie did like her comforts — especially
when she could enjoy them in private. It
was impossible to deny the fact, and what
was worse, each year she seemed to like
them better. But then on the other hand
how exquisitely divine it must be for your
amorous soul to have the power of making
little celestial expeditions quite independent
of its mundane body, and go flitting and
flying about in search of the much-wished-
for and sure-to-exist-somewhere kindred
There was something ecstatic, captivat-
ing and ennobling in the very idea.
And then the delii?ht of the kindred
spirit! The meeting, the joy, the embrac-
ing 1 It is to be feared that Lady De Foch-
sey's little head was often in a muddle.
She accepted every new theory of the day,
without understandincf a sinc^le one.
The conflict going on between her body
and her soul verged on the pathetic.
190 A CRACK COUxNTY.
She could not make up her mind whether
to throw in her lot with things heavenly or
things earthly. They both had their fas-
cinations, and the struggle was terrible.
When she found disappointment in the
one, she had recourse to the other. But
durinir the huntinsf season, terrestrial in-
fluences decidedly preponderated.
She could not help liking smart habits
and nice clothes, nor could she refrain
from a feeling of triumph when she re-
flected that her waist with a little squeezing
only measured twenty inches round, and
that she could tie a tie better than nine
hunting men out of ten.
Such facts as these compensated for a
good many minor disappointments.
Chief amongst the latter, had been tlie
want of attention hitherto paid to her by
As a man, she did not care for him one
bit, and moreover with that marvellous —
A CHARMINa WOMAN. 191
what may fairly be called husband — instinct
possessed by the sex, she knew that she
He exhibited none of those points which
attract a woman.
He was neither handsome, nor good
company, nor miserable, nor mysterious,
nor magnetically sympathetic. He was
just Lord Littelbrane, with fifteen thou-
sand a year, and if he had not been Lord
Littelbrane, everybody would have said
what a dull, stupid, uninteresting little
creature he was, and laughed at him for
giving himself airs.
Although his lordship invariably bowed
to Lady De Fochsey, and sometimes even
went the lenfjth of makin^x a remark about
the weather, she was distinctly aware, that
in spite of sundry small overtures on her
side, she had failed to make any impres-
sion. Now this knowledge always irritates
a woman, especially if she be young and
192 A CRACK COUNTY.
pretty, and a flirt. The game may not
repay the trouble, but if she can't play
it to her mind then she always hankers
This was exactly Lady De Fochsey's
Besides, she considered it the " proper
thing " to be hand-in-glove with the master,
if only because he loas the master. She
could forgive his showing no civility to
any other ladies, if he showed it to her.
But to be treated exactly the same as the
whole tribe of women who hunted with the
Morbey Anstead hounds, women who had
no pretensions to good looks, who had not
an idea of "getting themselves up," who
did not wear scarlet jackets and white
waistcoats, and whose waists were as flat
as pancakes, was exceedingly mortifying.
Nay, not only mortifying, but incomprehen-
sible. It went beyond her experience
everywhere else. By much flattery and
A CHARMING WOMAN. 193
insensibility to downright rudeness, she had
contrived to a certain extent to ingratiate
herself with the Mutual Adorationites.
They all condescended to speak to her, but
the desire of her life was to get up a
flirtation with Lord Littelbrane, if only for
the fun of paying him out for having
resisted her charms so long. For that he
should have done so was in every way
unaccountable. She wanted to see him
incorporated among her " tame cats ; "
then wouldn't she lead him a pretty dance.
- i— 1^ -^— i'^:—^ ^^\-r
VOL. I. 13
LOVE BY SELECTION.
With the instincts of a tliorougli coquette
Lady De Foclisey slightly slackened lier
horse's speed, as she overtook Lord Littel-
brane. If he wished to join her, he should
have the opportunity. Thus thinking, she
favoured him to one of her sweetest smiles.
It was by no means the first time she had
smiled upon him ; but she told herself that
random smiles w^ere like air-wafted seeds,
there was alwa}s a chance of their bring-
ing forth fruit.
So she smiled on and on, with all a
w^oman's perseverance, and with all a
woman's resolution to turn failure into
success. This man's impenetrability had
piqued her, otherwise she would never have
LOVE J3Y SELECTION. 195
troubled lier liead about him. He was far
too stilT and solemn for lier taste. She
liked people who could tell a good story,
who could appreciate one when they heard
it, and who didn't mind calling a spade a
spade. Now, with his lordship it had to
be termed a " trowel," or else an " imple-
ment for dio'f^ins^ the earth." She liked fun
and gaiety and amusement, whereas all he
seemed to think about were the " pro-
And she was sick to death of them ; they
had been dinned into her ears ever since
her girlhood, and Sir Jonathan, in his time,
had frequently waxed eloquent on the
Lad}^ de Fochsey was a woman to whom
admiration was as the breath of life. But
she possessed a certain amount of worldly
sharpness, and had long since come to the
conclusion that the best way of attracting
men was by amusing them ; and if }'0u
196 A CEACK COUNTY.
amused them, it did not do to be too
particular either in your manners or your
conversation. She had not a very exalted
idea of the male sex, nevertheless she could
not do without masculine society, and often
weakened her own self-respect in tlie
efforts she made to prove agreeable. She
could no more help casting an inviting
glance at Lord Littelbrane than she could
help being a social butterfly. That glance
seemed to sa}^ : " Oh ! do come and talk to
poor little me. For goodness sake, don't
be so stand-off."
Had it not been for his lordship's late
feeling of desolation, he might not have
construed the look in this manner, but big
with his resolution of committing matri-
mony, he was more amenable to feminine
influences. Therefore he responded to
Lady De Fochsey's pretty smile, and can-
tered up to her side. She immediately
checked the chestnut's speed.
LOVE BY SELECTION. 197
" Good morning," she exclaimed gaily.
*'I have not had an opportunity of ex-
changing a word with you all this long,
long time. You seemed determined on
ignoring my existence."
He reddened. His conscience pricked
him more than was agreeable.
" Now that is positively unkind of you
to say such a thing. Of course one can't
speak to everybody who comes out
hunting, but you," rather clumsily, " you
" Ahem ! that's a mercy : it's gratifying
to my feelings to find I am not included in
the list of people with whom your lordship
cannot condescend to hold converse in the
The satire was lost upon him ; he only
thought her words showed a very proper
sense of his position and of the responsi-
bilities entailed by it.
" Oh ! Ah ! You see there are so many
198 A CEACK COUNTY.
queer folks come out with these hounds
that one is bound to draw the Hne some-
"Of course," she answered with fine
irony, " still it is pleasing to find you do
not draw it at me, as I began to suspect.
One has feelings, you know," shooting a
lana'uishino' Hance at him, " even although
coo ' tJ
one is only a woman."
" I have feelings too," he said solemnly,
lookino^ as c^rave as an undertaker.
"I'm delighted to hear it, my lord.
Upon my word, there have been times when
I doubted their existence : I should think
they were very uncomfortable ones, judg-
ing from your manner."
" They are rather," he admitted, re-
lapsing into silence. He did not wish to
do anything precipitate, and he thought he
had iione far enough on that tack for the
present. There were just one or two little
points which he w^anted to ascertain before
LOVE BY SELECTION. 199
committing liimself. Was slie a flirt, was
she the least bit " loud," and was that
pretty waist of hers produced by tight-
lacing, or merely the result of natural
slimness ? He set his face against women
compressing this particular portion of their
body unduly. It was detrimental to the
future race. When he married, he intended
to marry with one given object in view. On
that point he w^as quite determined.
Nothino^ else could have induced him to
sacrifice his bachelor independence. At
forty-six men are apt to regard matrimony
as a dubious pleasure ; they have become
too selfish and too confirmed in their own
But in spite of her companion's tacitur-
nity, Lady De Fochsey had no intention of
allowing their interview thus soon to come
to an end. So uood a chance of insertinor
the thin edge of the w^edge might not occur
again for a long time. If he would not
200 A CEACK COUNTY.
talk on one subject she would try another,
a very harmless and innocent one, that
could not possibly frighten him. Perhaps
she had been a little — just a little — too
sarcastic, only she did so long to give him
a good shake, and put some life and
naughtiness into him. He was so fright-
fully slow and heavy, and yet did not seem
to have the least idea of the fact.
" Dear me ! " she exclaimed, reinimi in
her horse, with a gesture of feminine ex-
haustion. "What a terribly long jogl
How much further is it to the covert ? "
She thought it well to ascertain what
time was likely to be accorded her, so as to
make a satisfactory disposition of her
" Only about a quarter of a mile," he
answered, taking stock of the width of her
chest and the symmetry of her limbs. A
narrow-chested woman would not have met
with his approbation.
LOVE BY SELECTION. 201
" What a comfort ! That's the most
cheering piece of news I've heard for a
" Are you tired, Lad}^ De Fochsey ? "
" Dreadfully so ; Burnett has been going
at such a tremendous pace ; I can*t think
what has made him in so great a hurry.
Poor Little Mayfly," bending forward
and patting her horse's neck, " is quite
"And her mistress? "
"Her mistress is hot too."
" Why don't you walk a litlle, and take
a rest ? " he su2!"2:ested.
'' I can't, I should be left alone, all by
myself, miles away from everybody."
" Not if you will let me stay with you."
She turned her blue eyes full upon him.
She had never noticed before how weak
and watery his colourless ones were, but
she softened her voice, and said caress-
!:02 A CRACK COUNTY.
'^ Tore ! oil ! Lord Littelbrane ; you
can't be in earnest, surely ? "
" Yes/' he rejoined, growing bolder.
" Why not me as well as another ? " and
the warm blood rushed up into his faded
face, giving it quite an animated ex-
Again she smiled ; this time with con-
scious triumph. Her theory of the seedling
had proved correct. A clever woman has
only to bide her time, and there are very
few men who will escape her. If she has
good looks as well, then she can count
almost surely on the result.
" You — you are very kind," she said,
" I think you mioht trust me a little
bit," he said, dropping his voice.
But this was too much for her ladyship's
sense of the ridiculous. She lauHied out
" I liave trusted you, Lord Littelbrane, I
LOVE BY SELECTION. 203
have trusted you for tlie last three years,
and hunted regularly with these hounds.
Only " checking herself abruptly.
" Go on," he said impatiently. " Only
what ? "
" Must I tell you ? "
" Then," raising her limpid blue eyes
reproachfull}^ to his, '■ j^ou have never
displayed the slightest wish for me to place
faith in you until to-day. I have trusted
you enormously, but always — from a
He felt flattered. He was not sharp-
witted enouo'h to detect the fine stinc^ of
irony present in even her prettiest speeches ;
at all events he chose only to extract the
" Lady De Fochsey," he said, with con-
siderable agitation, " will you promise me
something ? "
" What is it, my lord ? A wise woman
204 A CEACK COUNTY.
never makes rash promises. She listens
first, and promises afterwards."
" Promise that you will trust me from a
distance no longer."
She hesitated for a moment — just a
pretty little feminine hesitation, calculated
to make him more eager. Then, with
another swift upward look of the blue eyes,
she said demurely :
"It is for you, not me, to decide the
distance. You can hardly expect me to
make the first advances. Eemember, that
for these three long years I have always
been under the impression you did not
Never had Lady De Fochsey appeared
to greater advantage than when she uttered
The air and exercise had brought a
rosy flush to her cheeks. Her eyes
sparkled with fun, -triumph, and ex-
citement, and her neat, upright figure.
LOVE BY SELECTION. 205
with its perfectly fitting scarlet coat,
swayed voluptuously to and frOj yielding
to every movement of lier horse. What
matter that the captivating golden fringe,
which peeped from beneath her hat, was
false ; or that she was suffering agonies
from the pretty little patent leather boot
displayed with such extreme liberality ?
The soul knoweth its own bitterness, and
Lord Littelbrane knew nothing of these
things. He saw her only as she appeared
to the outside world, not as she was and
felt to herself.
" Me ! Dislike you f' he stammered,
beginning to wonder at his own indiffer-
ence. '' How could you have entertained
so preposterous an idea ? "
" I did not know — I — I thought you
tried to avoid me."
" Pure imagination, my dear lady. The
fact of the matter is, that in my position
as master of hounds, it does not do for me
206 A CRACK COUMTY.
to display any active preferences out
" You have certainly succeeded in con-
cealing them admirably," she interrupted,
her love of fun j^^ettiiii:? the better of her
prudence. "No one could possibly have
suspected that you entertained any. In
fact your avoidance of womankind was
" 1 don't profess to be what is called a
lady's man," he said, not without a touch
"And I am sure that nobody would
accuse vou of beinir one " she retorted in
her most agacante manner.
" But," he went on, blushing up to the
very roots of his hair, " I have always
admired you. Always," emphatically.
" From the very first."
She burst into a peal of silvery laughter.
" Oh ! mv lord, vou do me too much
honour. 1 am charmed to hear it/' And
LOVE B^ SELECTION. 207
throuo-Ia lier vain little frame shot a thrill
" Ton my soul, it's the truth. You're
an awfully nice woman."
" In that case, you must be a very stupid
man not to have found it out sooner."
" By Jingo ! I believe you are right.
You think I have been remiss in my atten-
tions, do 3^ou ? "
" I did not say so, my lord."
" No, but your words implied it. Come,
tell me. Have I not guessed pretty near
the mark? " And he sidled up an inch or
two nearer to her. It pleased his vanity to
think that she had been hankerini]^ after
him and felt hurt by his non-sociability.
" I will not make any damaging admis-
sions," she responded, " though perhaps,"
sighing sentimentally, " it may have
occurred to me now and again, that you
considered women out of place in the
208 A CEACK COUNTY.
" I swear that I never tliouglit any such
thing. Why! Lady De Fochsey, I have
always looked upon you as one of the chief
ornaments of my hunt."
She could not suppress her mirth. It
was so irresistibly funny after three whole
years to find him wake up all of a sudden,
for no apparent rhyme or reason, and begin
paying her a series of grave and elaborate
compliments. She hardly knew whether
he was in earnest or not.
But anyway, she had not the least
intention of letting him see how elated she
felt. She was far too well versed in the
ways of the world to jump down a man's
throat who had committed the heinous
offence of taking such an unconscionable
time in discoverinix her attractions. True,
it was better than not fmding them out at
all, but he must be made to feel his own
stupidity — the pleasures he had missed.
" You will turn my head by so much
LOVE BY SELECTION. 209
adulation," she said demurely. " May I
venture to ask when you first made the
discovery of my being an ornament to
your hunt ? It must have been extremely
Her mocking, airy tone disconcerted,
whilst it provoked him. He hated " chaff."
And across his mind dimly crept tlie idea
that she was " chaffin^y " liim.
" I have stated a fact," he said reprov-
ingly, " and you seem to doubt my word,
I don't like sceptical people."
" Quite right," said her ladyship quiz-
zingly. " They are apt to be bores at
times. Nevertheless, I do not think you
need feel surprised at my being a little
slow of belief. It has only just dawned
upon me, that I am an ornament, at all
events in your eyes."
'*I suppose you thought me blind,
then ? " he said somewhat huffily.
" I am not quite sure. I believe I con-
VOL. I. 14
210 A CRACK COUNTY.
sidered you blind, after the manner of those
who won't see. People say that is the
worst form of any."
" Well, my eyes are opened at last, at
any rate, and I apologise for all my short-
*' Don't," she said jestingly. " It would
take you such a long time. Besides,"
shrugging her shoulders with a coquettish
gesture, " it really would be too absurd to
apologise to me, because it has never
entered your head to see anything to
admire in me, until to-day."
Her persistent levity had the effect of
making him more earnest.
"It by no means follows that a man does
not admire a woman because he has not
the impudence to tell her so to her face,"
he said, with some heat.
" Don't you think women very easily
forgive that sort of impudence ? " she
LOVE BY SELECTION. 211
" I hardly know."
" Do 3^011 suppose / would not have
forgiven you, Lord Littelbrane." And
the arrant little flirt looked wickedly-
round at him with her babyish turquoise
" Well — perhaps you might," he an-
swered, beginning to feel his head swim,
and his heart beat with a stran!2^e and
" Then why didn't you tell me ? "
This was a regular " poser," and he took
some time before making any answer. At
length he said, with a return to his serious
" I could tell you a good many things if
I chose." And he stared straic^ht out over
his horse's ears, as if afraid to encounter
another glance so full of temptation as the
" Do," she said persuasively. " I'm all
212 A CRACK COUxNTY.
He looked undecidedly at lier for a second,
then turned his head away.
" Perhaps I may some day," he responded
with growing solemnity, for the immense
gravity of the step he had in contempla-
tion weighed upon his spirit like a ton of
If he married, it was from a sense of
duty alone, not to gratify his personal
inclinations. He was bound to commit
matrimony sooner or later, and the lady of
his choice was equally bound to be young,
healthy and well-bred, in order to bring
into the world a desirable number of little
Littelbranes. Selection was a thing he
had not studied very deeply, but he opined
that it should certainlv be exercised
amongst people in exalted spheres. His
own, he considered a very exalted sphere;
and therefore the mother of the future
heir of Littelbrane Castle was a being not
to be chosen from the low standard of
LOVE BY SELECT10>', 213
human passion, but from the far nobler
and loftier one of the influences she was
likely to bring to bear upon posterity.
Keeping this laudable object steadily in
view, Lord Littelbrane had slowly come to
the conclusion that amongst all the ladies
of his acquaintance, Lady De Fochsey best
fulfilled the necessary conditions.
Eight-and- twenty was an excellent age.
Neither too young nor yet too old. The
only thing that distressed him, was that
she had had no family by her first husband.
But then her married life had been short,
and Sir Jonathan very ailing and infirm.
Such were his reflections, as, fatigued by
the magnitude of the conversational effort
already made, he once more relapsed into
silence. But he little knew the daring
aggressive nature of the woman with wdioni
he had to deal. Lady De Fochsey had
long since recognized him as one of those
men who must be " talked to." She found
2U .A CRACK COUNTY.
it up-liill work, but much practice had
rendered her equal to the occasion.
" A penny for your thoughts ! " she
exclaimed, after a prolonged pause, during
which she had been stealthily studying her
companion's face, and thinking how terribly
vapid and dull its owner was. He started
and turned red at being thus attacked.
" At that particular moment I was won-
dering whether you ever felt lonely," he
She forgave him his stupidity, since she
had been occupying his brain.
" Sometimes," she said, putting on a
pensive air. " But why do you ask. Do
you ? "
" Frightfully, since poor dear Harry
died. I don't know that I can i^o on liviuir
by myself much longer. I begin to want a
companion very badly indeed."
Lady De Fochsey was an audacious little
person, and had the gift of saying the
LOVE BY SELECTION. 215
boldest tliinofs in the most innocent and
artless of manners.
" If that is so. Lord Littelbrane, why on
earth do you not get married ? Everybody
says that you ought to."
" Do they ? " he inquired, flushing
" Yes, everybody. Is there no one
you like well enough to make your
wife ? "
" Yes," he said slowly. " I— I— think-
there — is."
" Ah ! I thought so. And pray, who
may the lucky lady be ? "
Something in the expression of his coun-
tenance made her heart palpitate. A
strange thought flashed through her mind.
A thought full of gratified vanity, but
without one particle of sentiment in its
He turned quite pale, opened his lips as
if to say something, when alas ! alas ! a
21 G A CEACK COUNTY.
loud tallv-ho came rinL^inj]^ t]irou<^h the
In another moment they were engulfed
by a galloping crowd, and borne far apart.
" Was there ever anything so pro-
voking ? " said Lady De Fochsey to herself.
" I do believe he meant to propose. And
oh, what fun it would have been, and what
a feather in my cap ! "
As for Lord Littelbrane, the perspiration
had gathered in great beads upon his noble
brow. He wiped it hastily away, and
uttered a sis^li which seemed torn from the
very depths of his being.
" By Jove ! " he muttered, " making love
is awful work, worse even than I thought.
It would have been all over with me in
another minute. I was going ahead so
deuced fast." Then he shook liis head,
and murmured disapprovingly : " Too fast
— too fast by a great deal. It's just as
well that fox went away when he did.
LOVE BY SELECTION. 217
Ko"w I can take another week or two to
make up my mind, and think the matter
He had no doubts about Lady De
Fochsey. It never occurred to him to
imagine that if he condescended to ask, she
■was not prepared to accept with pleasure.
HE won't face WATEl^
Although it was now nearly three o'clock,
and sportsmen had already indulged in one
good gallop, it had by no means abated
their keenness. After the lonn- summer's
inactivity, they were full of ardour, which
even the blindness of the country could not
keep in check.
They were just as eager to pursue this
second fox as they had been to follow the
first, and he took them alon^ at a verv fair
pace ; though after the first ten minutes
were over he showed himself in his true
colours, and turned out a faint-hearted,
twisty brute. This fact, however, did not
in the least detract from Bob's pleasure.
HE WON'T PACE WATER. 219
He was far too mucli of a novice at the
game to care whether hounds ran straight,
or round and round in a rino^. It was all
the same to him, as long as they kept
moving on, and he could get plenty of
jumping. The jumping, indeed, constituted
his chief delis^ht. He thou^jht far more of
it than of fox and hounds. They were
quite subordinate considerations, as com-
pared with the glorious and intoxicating
sensation of feeling yourself up in the air
and never knowing in exactly what fashion
you would descend to the earth. There
was an element of damper in the whole
business which gave it a special charm.
One moment your heart was in your
mouth ; the next, words failed to express
the sudden elation which took possession
of every faculty, and made the pulses thrill
with ecstasy. But The Swell and his rider
were no longer so exactly of the same
mind as they had been earlier in the day.
220 A CRACK COUNTY.
That fastidious animal began to consider
that his powers had been quite sufficiently
exerted. He was too wise and old a hunter
to love jumping for jumping's sake. He
looked upon every unnecessary leap as an
indignity to his understanding, and grew
more and more sulky in consequence.
His late master had almost invariably
ridden him first horse, and sent him home
early. The cunning creature could not see
the fun of being kept out so long, and
hankered after his comforting warm mash
and good old oats. His buoyancy and
spirits departed. It was almost with a
feeling of resentment that he turned
his head away from home, and for the
second time joined in the chase. His ill-
humour soon became evident. He no
longer fenced as faultlessly as in the
morning. One or two places he negotiated
quite slovenly, crashing right in amongst
the thorns and binders with his hind-legs.
HE WOxVT FACE WATEK. 221
So badly indeed did lie beliave, that Bob,
as he sailed down at a big hedge, newly
plashed, with a very blind ditch on the near
side, into which all the lopped-off twigs had
been cast, deemed it advisable to rouse him
up a little bit. The Swell resented the
process and the manner in which it was
done. He missed those subtle touches of
hand and heel to which he was accustomed.
His mouth was fine and very sensitive.
Bob gave it a job, and the horse im-
mediately tossed up his head, with the
result that he almost put both fore-feet into
the ditch, and only succeeded in getting
over with a desperate Hounder, which
landed him on his knees.
Crack, crack, rang an awful report in
Bob's ears as he was jerked violentl}^"
forwards, and then nearly as violently
back, whilst The Swell righted himself,
grunting with terror and indignation. His
unhappy rider knew what had happened.
222 A CRACK COUNTY.
He needed not to be told. The disaster
wliicli lie feared, with almost morbid fear,
had taken place at last. He glanced
hurriedly at his nether limbs.
Yes, there they were ! Those two
abominable elastic straps, dangling down
about a quarter of a yard in length, from
the hem of his trousers. One of them liad
even a little square bit of cloth still
sticking to it, which proved that the wrench
must have been considerable. An unutter-
able horror seized him. A kind of sinkinix
shame. And yet he did not realize the full
extent of his misfortunes until he had
galloped half-way across a fifty-acre field.
Then he began to feel odious and horrible
sensations of discomfort. Thev seemed to
come creeping slowly, slowly upward and
to run all along his spine. '\\'arm as he
was, a shudder passed through his frame.
He tried not to look downwnrds, but a
species of fascination forced him to do so.
HE WONT FACE WATER. 223
Unliappy young man ! The man who
had fancied himself superior to clothes, and
who affected to despise boots and breeches.
What did he see, you ask ?
He saw two inches of white leg — dis-
gustingly white, that made the matter so
much worse — fully exposed to public
vision ; whilst his stockinofs had wrio^o^led
themselves into the heels of his boots, and
his trousers were up to his knees. Pitiable
spectacle ! With the agony of desperation,
he tried to pull the one up and the other
down. It afforded only temporary relief.
The wretched things would not stop in their
place. And all this time hounds were
running well, even if not at a furious pace.
Had there been a gate close by he would
have hailed it with joy, and hidden his
diminished head amoni^st the roadsters.
But there was none. For once Stiff-
shire failed to supply the desired com-
modity. He must go on riding, and he
224 A CRACK COUNTY.
must go on jumping, whether he liked it
Overwhelmed with confusion, all of a
sudden he heard a loud guffaw. Turning
sharply round in the saddle, he perceived,
carefully crawling through a handy gap, no
less a person than his old antagonist,
General Prosieboy. That man seemed to
have a knack of turning up on every
occasion, just when he was least wanted.
At the present moment he was evidently
gloating over Bob's discomfiture. His fat
old sides literally shook with laughter,
whilst his face assumed a deeper and more
purple hue than its wont. Perhaps Bob
was unreasonable ; but the sight of the
old gentleman simply maddened him. It
seemed to set every nerve quivering and
throbbing, and added a thousand times to
his distress. He would have given a
hundred pounds at that moment to have
been able to punch General Prosieboy 's
HE WO^N'T FACE WATER. 225
head. There was a murderous instinct
within him, which, if not quelled, might
lead to terrible results.
Clapping spurs into The Swell he fled
precipitately, as the only way of escaping
from his tormentor.
But whither ?
He did not think — he did not care, so
long as he was somewhere near the hounds,
and away from the rest of the field.
For five whole minutes he rode like a
madman ; cramming his horse at all sorts
of break-neck places, now crashing into a
bull-finch, anon scrambling over fences,
again smashing recklessly through timber.
The Swell had never been so utterly amazed
and disf^usted in the whole course of his
career. His legs were a pincushion. They
were stuck full of thorns, his sides were
dark with crimson gore, and a long red
scratch disfigured the stifle of his near hind
leg. To look at him, he might have been
VOL. I. 15
226 A CRACK COUNTY.
a miserable hireling:, whose rider was bent
on having his two guineas' worth to the
very last farthing.
Presently Bob grew calmer. For a
hasty backward glance had shown him
that not a soul was followini]^ in his foot-
steps. All he wanted was to get away
from the crowd, and to escape their gibes
But before long, his thoughts took a
different turn. He began to imagine that
he was entirely alone with hounds. It
never struck him to look to the rig^ht or to
the left. His eyes were fixed on the light
vanishing; sterns ahead. Even the recollec-
tion of those two white legs faded from his
mind, erased by the imaginary glories of his
position. Neither was excitement wanting.
For none can be greater than that of riding
a well-nigh beaten horse at a succession of
big fences, and counting surely on a fall at
each one. A man's courage is severely
HE WON'T FACE WATER. 22 T
tested then — more perhaps than at any-
With all his good qualities, The Swell
was not a bond fide stayer.
He could live through a really fast run,
first thing in the morning when he came
out fresh and well, but although it might
take some time to discover the fact, he was
a cur at heart. For if he once got ever so
little pumped, he never came again that
The morning gallop had stretched his
girths quite as much as he deemed fit.
After five and thirty to forty minutes, a
twenty-pound screw would have carried a
man almost as well to hounds for the
remainder of the afternoon.
Besides which natural idiosyncrasies, he
had not been out hunting this season and
was a little short of condition, like most
gentlemen's horses early in November.
Bob, however, was not sufficiently ex-
228 A CRACK COUNTY.
perienced to take tliese things into consider-
ation. He had a good deal to learn yet,
before becoming a finished cross-country
performer. The number of jumps you have
jumped, does not constitute the sole glory
of fox-hunting, as before long he was
destined to discover. Wise is he, who,
nursing his horse, looks upon leaping
simply as a means to an end.
All of a sudden, straight in front of him,
Bob saw the gleam of water peeping coldly
out from amongst a fringe of low, stunted
willows. As he did so, Matthews' words
recurred to him : " He has but one fault,
sir. He won't face water."
But he — Bob — was in that state of sur-
excitation, when he flattered himself that a
really resolute person on The Swell's back was
bound to make all the dilTerence. Because
a horse refused to look at a brook with one
man, he might be persuaded or forced to
have it with another. Anyhow, he would
HE WON'T FACE WATER. 229
not show the white feather, even although
he believed there was no one to see what
he was about. But his own self-respect
shrank from the idea of " funking
Physical cowardice inspired him with a
supreme contempt. As for the hounds —
well, he forgot to notice whether they had
actually crossed the brook or not. He
thought they were going to, and that was
enough. He never observed how old True-
tongue paused on the very brink, and then
feathered along the side. Instead of closely
watching her movements, he caught his
horse by the head, and drove him at the
water, just as hard as ever he could.
To his surprise, he found on approaching
the brook, that it was bigger than he
suspected. Should that alter his determina-
tion ? Certainly not.
He raised his whip hand. The Swell
fswerved away from it ; and then — oh,
horror I he felt him begin to collapse under
230 A CEACK COU>'Ty.
liim. He dug the spurs into the poor
beast's sides and kept him as straight as he
could. He held him in such an iron grasp
that he thought the horse was bound to
make a bid for it. Xot he !
In the very last stride, The Swell stopped
dead short, stretched out his neck, lowered
his head and Grazed in mute obstinacy at the
dark depths beneath him. He knew what
they felt like. He had tried them once,
lonsf ajT^o in his early youth, and had made
a mental resolve never, by any chance, to
renew their acquaintance. Some might
like cold water. He did not approve of it.
The dry system appeared to him to possess
insuperable advantages. And Bob ? the
rash youth who thoug^ht his will was
stronger than that of the animal he
bestrode, and who did not know that a
horse, when he is in earnest, can defy any
man ever born ! Well, Bob simply flew
over his head, like an arrow shot from a
HE WON'T FACE WATER. 231
bow, and descended plump into the midst
of the stream. It was awfully deep ! He
went right down to the bottom, rolled about
in the soft mud, and imbibed more water
than he had ever done before or hoped to
do again. Gasping and spluttering, he
rose to the surface, making frantic endea-
vours to regain his footing. Eoars of
laughter greeted his reappearance — real,
unfeigned, hearty laughter.
It seemed to him, in that never-to-be-
forgotten moment, which crowned all his
previous mishaps, as if the whole of the
Morbey Anstead Field were congregated
on the banks of this fatal brook, and were
unanimous in regarding his involuntary
immersion as a most excellent joke. If he
could have felt any sensations of heat, he
would have grown hot with indignation.
Even The Swell turned his full blue eye
upon him with an air of amiable triumph,
which seemed to say : " Ah ! you would
232 A CRACK COUNTY.
have done much better to have taken my
It was a terrible thinf]^, having? to scramble
out on to terra Jirma before all those
laughing faces. Nobody appeared to
possess the least instinct of pit}'. Even
Lady De Fochsey, his quondam ally, was
smiling broadly and was evidently greatly
Poor Bob stood and shook himself like a
Newfoundland dog. The water poured
from his ears and saturated clothes. The
glory of the day had departed. The
sky had clouded over, a cold wind arose
which whistled across the uplands. lie
felt chilled to the bone. And then, all at
once, a grufT voice from amongst the
crowd said :
" I say, young fellow, how are the legs ?
They look whiter than ever after getting
such a real good washing. It will save
your soap, anyway."
HE WONT FACE WATER. 233
This sally was received witli much
tittering and applause.
Bob could have sworn the voice belonged
to General Prosieboy, but he failed to
perceive that gentleman's whereabouts.
Perhaps it was lucky for his grey hairs.
It is the last straw which breaks the
Bob had endured a good deal, on this
memorable day, from the hands of the
Mutual Adorationites ! He now felt as if
he could endure no more. His wet clothes
clung heavily about him and weighed like
a ton. Without saying a word he
clambered laboriously up into the saddle,
and rode straight off in the direction of
home. Any temporary feeling of elation
had been destroyed by his cold bath. A
more crestfallen, dejected and miserable
young man, it would have been impossible
to find in all Her Majesty's possessions.
Just when he was particularly anxious to
234 A CEACK COU^'TY
make a favourable dehut in the hunting
field, he had contrived to tumble off and
provide amusement for every one present.
The tears almost started to his eyes. He
felt so bitterly humiliated. Swearing was
not a habit he greatly approved of, but
oh ! how he swore at those " confounded "
straps, which, rightly or wrongly, he
looked upon as the chief cause of his
THE PLEASURES OF HUNTING.
As soon as lie succeeded in reaching^ the
first road, Bob set off at a swinging trot.
His teeth were chattering, and his limbs
frozen. To make matters worse the wind
increased, till it seemed to blow through
his clothes as if they were paper, and
chilled the very marrow in his bones.
Under these circumstances, it was perhaps
excusable that he displayed but little regard
for The Swell's fore-legs, and went pounding
along at a tremendous pace. After he had
gone about a couple of miles, he saw a poor
old labourer encrafred in the tedious task
of breaking stones by the road-side.
Then for the first time it occurred to
him, that for aught he knew, he might be
236 A CRACK COUNTY.
going Tvrong, since he was by no means
sure of the way. Therefore, checking his
tired horse, he asked : " Is this right for
Straighten! Court, my man ? "
"Yes, sir, quite right, sir," came the
reply. " Keep straight on till you pass
Killerton village, then turn sharp to the
right, through a bridle-gate, that takes you
across the fields almost into Straight em.
It'ull save you a couple of miles if not
" But how am I to find the bridle-gate ?"
inquired Bob, intent on making sure of
"You can't possibly mistake it, sir,
because there's a sign-post within five
Moved to compassion by the feeble old
man's shrunken frame, hollow cheeks and
half-starved appearance. Bob fumbled in
his waistcoat pocket until he found a
THE PLEASURES OF HUNTING. 237
" Thank you," he said kindly. " Tliere
— take this. I have no doubt that it will
do you a great deal more good than it will
The recipient's blessings followed him as
he rode away, and for a few minutes he
reflected gravely on the miserable condition
of an honest man like the one he had just
left, when age and infirmity combined to
render the struggle against poverty more
and more difficult. What could life mean
to him ? Only a weary, weary warring
against cold and wind and rain ; against
hunger and fatigue ; without amusement,
without pleasure ; without comfort of any
sort. A dreary existence at best, but
rendered a thousand times more so by
failing health, and the pains of a poor,
worn-out old body. The body ! Ah !
what a drag and torment it was to human
beings ! If only they could rise above it !
And yet even a simple toothache could
238 A CRACK COUNTY.
dethrone the greatest genius from its seat.
Brain, psychic force : of what did they
avail, when Pain could lay them in the
dust so easily and ride triumphant over
them ? Their very defeat only served to
prove the weakness and mortality of man.
But Bob's meditations were cut short by
a fresh calamity. The road had been
newly mended and was covered with
stones. The Swell toed them with the
carelessness of a weary animal. Suddenly
he trod on a loose flint, and immediately
afterwards went dead lame. So lame
indeed that trottinijf was out of the
question. It was as much as he could do
Bob's star was clearly not in the
ascendant to-day. He thought that he
had already reached the limits of his ill-
luck. He found there was still a mar^^in
which had not entered into his calculations.
Tbe Swell's ?-:mall ears now bobbed up and
THE PLEASUEES OF HUNTING. 239
down with torturing irregularity. They
made him feel like a monster of cruelty.
Dismounting, he proceeded to examine
the poor beast's foot, but could perceive
nothing? to account for his sudden lameness.
In truth, it would have taken a pretty
powerful magnifying glass to have detected
that small, sharp piece of granite, which
having penetrated the frog, was causing
such exquisite agony.
Beino* now forced to travel at a foot's
pace, Bob considered it was warmer
walking than riding, besides he could not
help being sorry for the unhappy animal,
whose appearance had undergone such a
total transformation since he sallied forth
in the morning, champing at his bit,
arching his glossy neck and playfully
whisking his tail. There was not a
symptom of light-heartedness left now.
' The unfortunate Swell no longer merited
he name. Anything less like an equine
240 A CRACK COUNTY.
dandy could not have ?jeen imagined. His
sleek bay coat Tvas hard and white with
dry perspiration, his sides were disfigured
by spur marks, his legs incrusted with mud ;
whilst his eye wore a dull, glazy look,
which told of physical discomfort. If to
him had been given the gift of speech, he
would probably have said : " My master
may be ' plucky,' but never let me see him
again — never let me have anything more to
do with him. He has ridden my tail off."
Bob trudged sturdily on, till at length
he reached Killerton villaf]fe, and the bridle-
gate beyond. Then, when once more a
vista of green fields refreshed his eyes, he
remounted, thinking that the probabilities
were The Swell would go less tender on the
soft, springy grass.
In this supposition he was correct, never-
theless it was a weary ride home, cold and
slow and miserable. The sort of ride which
eflectually obliterates any pleasant impres-
THE PLEASUEES OF HUNi'ING. 241
sions left by the day's sport, and which
makes a man besfin to ask himself whether
fox-hunting repays the many disappoint-
ments and discomforts that must necessarily
come in its train.
It was a bad thing for Bob, on his very
first acquaintance with the noble pastime,
to have arrived at such a stage, but, as
before stated, physical misery soon makes
a diflerent creature of man, and quickly
Our hero followed the track as well as
he could, and his spirits slightly revived.
But after a time, the path disappeared,
swallowed up in a sea of grass, and then he
had to trust entirely to his bump of locality
— a bump which he did not possess in as
laro^e a de^^ree as mi^fht have been ex-
Besides, it is by no means an easy thing
to thread one's way through a series of
narrow gates, in an entirely new country.
VOL. 1. 17
242 A CEACK COUNTY.
These huge uninhabited pastures, for which
StilTshire is celebrated all over the huntinc^
world, and which constitute its glory and
its renown, are desolate in the extreme.
You may go for miles and miles without
meeting anything but herds of grazing
cattle, woolly sheep, and an occasional
rough young colt. The cloud-shadows
race across these vast stretches of undu-
lating verdure, and the wind sweeps over
them at its icy will. There are scarcely
any trees to break its hirj. Only a few
isolated specimens in the hedgerows, which
rear their gaunt, stunted arms to the dull
sky, as if imploring that their lives may be
i^ranted them. Here and there a cjreat
black bullfinch, situated on the summit of
some rising hill, lies like a long dark wall
against the grey horizon. A magpie flits
across the path. Intersected lines of fences
break up the green, rendering it yet more
vivid — and this is StifTshire. Lonelv, silent,
THE PLEASUEES OF HUNTING 243
sullen, undecked by the beauties of Nature,
3^et witlial not destitute of a certain
grandeur, born of lier vastness and her
desolation. A solitary country, that after
a time possesses a kind of weird charm for
the solitary soul that walks the earth alone.
Bob looked about him. Far as eye could
reach, not a human habitation was within
vision. He began to experience fresh mis-
givings as to the route. Sometimes the
fields were so large that they had two or
three gates, and then he was just obliged
to guess at the most likely one. But he
might have gone wrong a dozen times over,
and as the afternoon advanced, would have
been many degrees easier in his mind, could
he but have reached a road. Many and
many a time did he regret having left one.
He would not have grudged the greater
distance, for the sense of extra security
conferred. Already it seemed to him as if
he had been hours on his way.
244 A CEACK COUNTY.
All of a sudden, just when lie was set-
tling down into a state of melancholy resig-
nation, he perceived a brand new gate,
painted white, about fifty yards ahead.
And through the bars of this gate, he saw
the moist road glimmering, as the young
crescent moon, high up aloft, reflected her
pallid face in a little pool of water. Joy-
fully he hastened his steps, whilst even The
Swell pricked his ears, and seemed to know
he was nearini^ home.
Bob stretched out his arm, and tried to
lift up the latch with the crook of his
hunting crop. It was secured by some
new-fangled process which he did not
understand, and yielded not an inch. He
made another essav witli the same result,
another and yet another. Then The Swell
grew impatient, and pushed heavily against
the barrier witli his stroma chest. Findini]f
it still closed, he lurched awav from it in
distrust, as much as to sav, " It is for vou
THE PLEASURES OF HUNTING. 245
to open this, not me. I've done my best,
now you do yours."
Bob did all lie could to coax him up to
the gate again. He tried patting, he tried
speaking, he tried spurring. But the horse
refused with all the obstinacy of which
brute nature is capable. In little, as in
big things, The Swell would try once, but
never more often. He was like some men
and many women — easily disheartened by
failure, and let failure conquer liim^ instead
of he conquering failure.
This delay proved most vexatious. For
when you have been immersed in a brook,
on a cold November afternoon, every
minute appears of consequence. Your
whole soul hankers after warmth, and a
dry change of clothes. There was nothing
for it, however, but to get off. Bob
did so, and throwing the reins over his
bridle arm, proceeded to ascertain why
this particular gate was unlike all other
2ir, A CEACK COUNTY.
gates, and refused to allow itself to be
But heaving, pushing, lifting — all proved
useless. At the end of five minutes he was
in despair. Finally he put his shoulder to
the refractory bars, and tried to break
them down by main force. He was a
strcng, athletic young fellow, six feet in
height, and broad of chest, with muscles
developed by the healthy open-air life he
had led. But he was just as powerless
af]^ainst those stronc^ white timbers as a
child of six. He could not even bend
them, although he put forth all his
streni^th, and his face turned scarlet with
A heavy sigh escaped from him. It
acknowledged his defeat. Totally discon-
certed, he told himself that he must retrace
his footsteps and seek some fresh means of
enter] nu^ the road. He clanced at the
fence which ran on either side of the gate.
THE PLEASURES OF HUNTINa. 247
But it was perfectly unjumpable, and even
had it been otherwise, he doubted very
much whether The Swell, in his present
state, could have made an effort. He was
at his wit's end. And then, all at once
hope surged up into his heart.
He heard a noise, the clatter of hoofs
approaching on the hard macadam. Thank
goodness ! help was at hand. The people
of the country would surely understand
how these mysterious gates opened. And
even if the worst came to the worst, with
the aid of another good, strong man, he
felt confident that he could break the
wretched thing down. It would be easy
to pay for the damages afterwards, but
home, sweet home, was the chief considera-
tion just at present.
Bob's disappointment was therefore ex-
treme, when a sharp turn in the road
revealed a young lad}-, riding a smart dun
cob, about fourteen hands high.
248 A CRACK COUNTY.
Their eyes met, and she seemed imme-
diately to guess the cause of his distress.
She blushed a little, hesitated for a
moment, and then pulled the dun up to a
" I see you are in difficulties," she said,
in a voice whose frank, straightforward
tones impressed him favourably. " Will
you allow me to help you P "
In his amazement at this slim, slip of a
girl imagining that she could open a gate
which had defied all his own energies. Bob
did a very rude thing.
He made no answer, but simply stood
still, and stared at the fair Samaritan who
thus kindly volunteered to assist him.
END OF VOL. I.
UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS-URBANA
3 0112 084215224